What might have been had the Olympics come to Chicago

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An artist’s rendition of what Olympic Stadium would have looked like in Washington Park.

Let’s give much-maligned Rio de Janeiro some credit. What took years for the late, great Mike Butler and his crew to perfect – the dying of the Chicago River green for St. Patrick’s Day – Rio accomplished in a few days with green swimming-pool water.

OK, that’s too easy a shot. The Rio Games have been a struggle, from athletes complaining about accommodations to a massive aerial camera falling and injuring people in Olympic Park to two pools turning green, thanks to hydrogen peroxide accidentally dumped into the water.

Any criticism from these parts might be the result of sore-loser-it is. The 2016 Olympics were supposed to be ours. But Chicago got ousted in the first round of International Olympic Committee voting in 2009, and all we were left with were artists’ renditions of what the sites would have looked like.

But it would have been wonderful to see the Opening Ceremony inside the Olympic Stadium at Washington Park. Presumptive production director Kanye West would have honored all things Chicago, though he still would have been steaming that his first theme, “Taylor Swift Has No Talent,’’ was vetoed. And surely Michael Jordan would have come down from the mountain to light the Olympic flame.

Washington Park also would have been the site of the Aquatics Center, and we would have been close enough to get splashed by Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky. Eighty thousand people would have crammed Olympic Stadium to get a peek at Usain Bolt making history. Soldier Field would have had soccer, and the United Center basketball and gymnastics.

And Ryan Lochte and three other American swimmers just as easily could have been robbed at gunpoint in Chicago as Brazil (though Rio police say they have little evidence to support the swimmers’ claims of a crime). So we can probably get off our high horse. If the 2016 Games had been here, you can bet there would have been plenty of jokes about all the Olympic shooting events throughout our violent city.

I don’t know what the long-terms effects of having the Games here would have been, but I believe the 16 days of competition would been a roaring logistical and competitive success. The rest of the world would have been green with envy.


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