FLORENCE GILKESON: Chicago Still Has a Lot Going for It
Chicago, as the old Tony Bennett favorite puts it, is "that toddlin' town," a place to lose the blues.
Another verse humorously says, "They have the time, the time of their life. I saw a man, he danced with his wife -- in Chicago, Chicago my hometown."
President Obama's appearance in Copenhagen on behalf of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics caused a stir.
Critics outside Chicago said he should not have left the country to make a pitch for the Olympics. Critics inside Chicago said they wanted the Olympics to go elsewhere because the games would be costly and create traffic jams. It must be added, however, that supporters far outnumbered the anti-Olympics Chicagoans.
In some ways, Chicago gets a bad rap. The city is associated with the likes of gangster Al Capone, political machines and corrupt politicians. The city marks its history with that 1871 fire that killed more than 300 people and razed about a third of the town.
My friend and former co-worker, Locke Bowman, recently moved from Penick Village to a suburb of Chicago to be closer to his son. We hated to lose him, but Locke said he likes Chicago and was looking forward to living in the area again.
Big cities are fun. A country girl raised "in the sticks," I am awed by the tall buildings, the multitude of people, the art museums and symphony orchestras, big stores and -- yes -- the artwork on display in public places. Who can forget Picasso's 50-foot sculpture in Daley Square?
When my husband won a scholarship to a February seminar on the inner-city church at McCormick Theological Seminary years ago, he was concerned about Chicago's legendary weather. He asked for warm clothing for his Christmas gifts. The family obliged, and his gifts included a pair of fur-lined gloves.
He really enjoyed the seminar but reported rare mild weather. He never did wear the gloves while in Chicago. Down here in North Carolina, it was our coldest February in years.
Later we spent several days in Chicago as tourists. The food was good, the people friendly, the sight of sailboats on Lake Michigan delightful, the Museum of Science and Industry awesome. No gangsters crossed our path.
It is curious that Chicago, now the nation's third-largest city with a population of 2.8 million, has never hosted the Olympics. In 1893 Chicago did host a world's fair, officially named the World's Columbian Exhibition.
Chicago has a park named for Jesse Owens, the Olympic gold medalist who rankled the Aryan-minded Adolf Hitler at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. Poet Carl Sandburg wrote of Chicago and its stockyards. Andrew Greeley, a Catholic priest and scholar, used Chicago as the setting for his Jackie Ryan murder mysteries. Don't forget all those Chicago animals -- the Cubs, Bears, Bulls, Lions.
Now that Chicago has lost out to Rio for the 2016 Olympics, the pundits were quick to blame the loss on the president's flagging poll results. The city had other heavyweight support in First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Olympians Michael Jordan, once of the Chicago Bulls, and Michael Phelps.
Whether Rio made a better pitch than we did, I cannot say. But fair is fair, and this will be the first time the Olympics are played in South America. Brazil is a stable country, and Rio is a beautiful, vibrant city.
I have no idea all the factors the IOC uses in making its selections, but a glance at the schedule in the more immediate future is revealing. The 2010 Olympics are destined for Vancouver. In 2014 the Games will be in London.
Two years later, the setting is Sochi, Russia. Selecting Chicago would have sent the Olympics to the third English-speaking city in seven years.
Chicago may have lost this time, but it's still that "toddlin' town."
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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