Chicago! Yo! Over here! I have a question.
So the 2016 Summer Olympics begin in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 5 — three months from Thursday — assuming the city doesn’t first dissolve into unrest or the region become overwhelmed by Zika-carrying mosquitoes or Brazil collapse into political anarchy.
That said, how many of you have had this thought: “Darn, if only we had gotten the 2016 Olympics. I sure wish it were taking place right here instead.”
A show of hands. Anybody?
Thought so. While I’m sure there must be someone who wishes that, among Chicago’s complex raft of woes, the city were also throwing a weird mega block party for shot-putters and pole-vaulters and all those other sports we studiously ignore the 47 consecutive months between Olympics. But I’m not expecting many.
The general reaction has to be a collective, Whew!
Dodged that bullet.
One disaster that Richard M. Daley didn’t foist upon Chicago despite trying with all his might.
Looks like the Friends of the Parks might actually succeed in snatching back the prime lakefront property that filmmaker George Lucas claimed as a kind of droit du seigneur, and Rahm Emanuel gave to him because, well, as Gore Vidal once said, the powerful “don’t have to conspire because they all think alike.” Lucas wants a monument to himself, and Rahm wants to dilute his own general failure as mayor to solve substantive problems by hanging shiny prizes off his belt to dazzle the citizenry.
Whoops. Did I say that out loud? I meant, “Rahm wants it because the construction of the museum will lead to thousands of jobs, and it will be a jewel that will attract countless visitors to this world-class, not-at-all-circling-the-drain city of Chicago.”
So would building a colossal Cheops-like pyramid tomb to house the mayor’s eventual remains. But that isn’t a good idea either.
I’ve been saying this from the beginning. The “Star Wars” franchise was an enormous hit. But so was Cabbage Patch Kids, and they don’t deserve a lakefront museum either. Draping the “narrative arts” smokescreen over the museum fools no one. We could put it anywhere.
The Norman Rockwell Museum — Lucas owns dozens of Rockwells, and they are to be part of the collection — is in remote Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and plenty of Rockwell fans make the trek there to see it. I did. If the mayor actually cared about the whole city, as he pretends to, he’d be leaning on Lucas to put his new museum in Pullman, and not using the lakefront downtown to draw people to it instead of using the museum to draw people elsewhere. Maybe because it can’t, and they know it. Who’s going to fly to Chicago to see a museum that Chicagoans won’t get on a bus for 15 minutes to visit?
Plans to put it in the parking lot of Soldier Field were blocked by a lawsuit. So the mayor hatched the scheme of tearing down McCormick Place and putting the Lucas structure — an ugly white carbuncle of a modern monstrosity that makes Frank Gehry’s bandshell look like the Parthenon — there instead.
Evoking McCormick Place should be a clarifying moment. Longtime Chicagoans might remember that the reason McCormick Place is on the lakefront to begin with is because the Tribune bullied the city into putting it there in 1960. Six years after opening, it burned to the ground, thanks to the wrath of an angry God, only to be rebuilt again by Richard J. Daley.
Here’s a thought: Tear down McCormick Place and don’t build anything there. Let Lucas fob his museum off on Cleveland or Phoenix or one of those cities that will be genuinely delighted to have it. When that happens, how many of you would make plans to go to Cleveland or Phoenix or wherever the heck it ends up to see a mock-up of R2D2 and some framed comic strips? A show of hands. Anybody? I didn’t think so.