The Spirit of a City and Why the
2016 Summer Olympics
Deserve to be Held in Chicago
By: John O’Donnell
Back on June 4, 2008, Chicago was selected as one of four candidate cities to potentially host the
2016 Summer Olympic Games along with Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. Thus began the courting
process of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which initially evaluated Chicago capable of only
beating Rio de Janeiro as the most suitable city to host the event. Yet with Europe hosting the 2012
Summer Olympics in London, England and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, it is unlikely the IOC
will choose to host three consecutive Olympic games on the same continent, which doesn’t boast well for
Madrid. Furthermore, some IOC members believe Tokyo’s chances are small since voting for the 2016
games takes place only one year removed from Beijing’s 2008 Summer Games. So when the IOC visited
Chicago back in April, it was perhaps the most anticipated visit of the four candidate cities. What the
members likely learned would probably surprise even some Chicago residents.
For starters, the IOC may not have expected Chicago to be so culturally and ethnically diverse.
Chicago is home to at least 26 different ethnic populations of 25,000 residents or more, and usually cities
full of such differing lifestyles bode well in holding an international event, as it is likely to draw people from
more cities across the world.
Also, after holding an Olympic Games in a city (Beijing) with air pollution levels on an average day to
be five times above what the World Health Organization considers a standard in safety, the IOC will be
looking to present a far more environmentally sound city to the world. Enter Chicago, which currently ranks
as one of the greenest cities in the world. Chicago has over 12,000 acres committed to public parks, as
well as over 2.5 million square feet of rooftop gardens on top of its skyscrapers. Meanwhile, the Chicago
Climate Exchange is the first and only carbon-emission trading floor, and recently, the U.S. Green Building
Council awarded four city projects it’s highest rating of “Platinum.” None of the other candidate cities can
even attempt to match such figures.
Certainly, the IOC saw why Chicago takes pride in itself on having one of the worlds most lucrative
and innovative restaurant scenes, not to mention legendary deep-dish pizza, Italian beef, and Chicago-style
hot dogs. In addition the host site has plenty of destinations for tourists to visit when they aren’t attending
Olympic events. With all the museums, theater, and music that Chicago is surrounded with, there
undoubtedly would be floods of people should the Games come to the city.
Chicago is also best capable to handle the large crowds, as it not only holds over 100,000 hotel
rooms, but has a public transportation system in the “L” trains and buses that connect the public to more
than 230 suburbs. Rio de Janeiro, on the other hand, is unable to match such lodging, being forced to
propose using cruise ships and condominium apartments to overcome hotel room shortages. But perhaps
most helpful for the city of Chicago is that public transportation on the Blue and Orange lines of the Chicago
Transit Authority can cart visitors from O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport,
respectively, to the city limits.
Unexpectedly to many outsiders, there are 26 miles of public beaches and shoreline in Chicago, not
to mention 570 parks and 17 lagoons where visitors can enjoy themselves with activities such as fishing or
bird watching. Tokyo, in contrast, has fewer than 20 recommended parks.
Finally, for a city to host an international sporting event, it helps that its citizens follow sports
extensively, and that is most definitely that case in Chicago. From football to lacrosse, the city has some of
the most passionate fan bases in the world for its seven professional sports teams, not to mention some of
the most memorable athletes ever to compete in sporting competition, such as Michael Jordan or Walter
The bottom line is it is time for America to host the Summer Games once more, and with the
experience the United States already has in hosting the Games combined with the infrastructure and skilled
labor force already present in the city, Chicago would be the perfect choice to capture the Olympic spirit in
On a beautiful day at North Avenue Beach in Chicago,
Illinois, Rob Hunger and Casey O’Neil (above) play a
small game of “Ultimate Frisbee,” while Steve
Gonnella (left) jumps up to set up a volleyball shot. All
three men believe that the beaches of Chicago are an
underestimated component as the city competes for
the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. “When I first
moved to Chicago, I had no idea how popular the
beaches were here especially on the weekends,”
Hunger said. “Now, I find myself coming here almost
every Saturday as long as the weather is nice.” O’Neil
added, “I think we really appreciate our chances to
soak up the summer. After a brutal winter like the one
we just had, it almost makes it more special when you
have a chance to come out here. It helps that the girls
are hot too.” Forbes recently rated Chicago as the
25 fittest city in America – better than other cities
Established in 1943, the original Pizzeria
Uno in River North (right) houses some of
the most famous deep dish pizza in the
world and is a staple in Chicago’s
reputation as having the ability to cater to
the appetite of any tourist. And actor Jim
Belushi, a Chicago-native, has repeatedly
declared that the best Chicago-style hot
dogs can be found at Portillo’s restaurant
chain, which was founded in 1967 at Villa
Park, Illinois, which is a suburb of
Chicago. Such delicacies are impossible
to find in any of the other candidate cities
for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
Uno’s photo taken May 16, 2009.
A picture perfect display proving that Chicago is a metropolis that can hold capacity to an Olympic
sized crowd should they be selected to host the Summer Olympic Games in 2016 without
sacrificing green space, such as Grant Park here, and other environmentally friendly
accommodations. May 29, 2009. DePaul University photo by John O’Donnell.
Crown Fountain (left) illuminates nearly 1,000
individual Chicagoans in Millenium Park,
demonstrating the vast diversity of people ethnically
and culturally in the city, which is likely to make more
people across the globe feel right at home while
visiting for the Summer 2016 Olympic Games should
they be held in Chicago. Meanwhile, Cloud Gate
([below] dubbed “The Bean” by local residents) is one
of the many wonders of Chicago waiting to be
explored by potential visitors, appropriately reflecting
the city on it’s stainless steel structure designed by
Anish Kapoor. May 25, 2009. DePaul University
photos by John O’Donnell.
A train car comes through Chicago Transit Authority’s Damen “L” Blue Line stop (above). Trains usually run through
the platform every 2-7 minutes, with an average travel time of 8 minutes to the Clark/Lake Blue Line stop in downtown
Chicago. Residents of the rapidly growing Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhoods in Chicago will recognize the
entrance (below), as the station’s proximity to the downtown area helped boost the population in recent years. Similar
stations already hosting 1,189 more train cars around the city would allow for easy transportation to those visiting
Chicago should they host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. May 25, 2009. DePaul University photo taken by John
Perhaps the best display of why Chicago deserves the Olympics – it’s passionate sports fans.
Here, Derrek Lee of the Chicago Cubs tosses a ball towards the crowd at the end of an inning as
the Cubs hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers May 29, 2009. The fans are more passionate than ever
despite the Cubs not having won a World Series Championship in over 100 years, representing
how loyal people are to their sporting clubs in the city. DePaul University photo by John O’Donnell.