Denied: Michigan Has Tried to Host The Olympics 9 Times
The modern Olympic Games began in 1896 in Athens, Greece, reviving a very different form of the ancient games that used to take place in Olympia, Greece between 800 BC and 400 AD.
Michigan has tried to get in on the action several times, specifically Detroit, but it never happened. In fact, Detroit bid for the games nine consecutive times between 1940 and 1972, coming very close in 1968. In fact, they have made more bids than any other city in the world to host the Olympic games among cities that never actually were chosen.
Let's take a look at each of those attempts and figure out what made Motown lose out. Keep in mind that these were all bids for the Summer Games.
This was the first try and Detroit thought they had a good chance. By the late 1930s, the city had established itself as a major sports hub, thanks to the great success of teams like the Lions, Tigers, and Red Wings at that time.
The 1940 games were going to be held in Tokyo, Japan, but Japan withdrew from hosting the games in 1939 due to the war with China. As Detroit lobbied for the games, the city was persuaded to offer $3,000,000 to build an Olympic stadium and swimming facility. Detroit's bid was ultimately rejected and those facilities were never built but at the time, the city was guaranteed by the Olympic Committee that Detroit would one day have an opportunity to host. Helsinki, Finland was awarded the games but they never took place due to the onset of World War II.
Detroit got right back on it for the next games with another bid immediately in 1939 to host the 1944 games. And they were considered again. London was ultimately selected, but it didn't matter as World War II was breaking out and the 1944 games were not held, canceling two consecutive Olympic Games.
This is considered somewhat of a "phantom bid". Detroit has architects draw some plans for a 100,000 seat indoor stadium but the city was encouraged to avoid interfering with London's bid, as they were supposed to host the games in 1944 before the two editions of the games (1940 & 1944) were canceled during World War II.
The decision for 1952 was to be made in the summer of 1947 and by now, a number of cities in the United States were becoming more interested in hosting, along with Detroit. But Detroit had more momentum this time with the support of the city, the Governor of Michigan, and the U.S. House of Representatives among several others. But the games went to Helsinki, Finland instead, because Helsinki had been part of a duly awarded decision in 1940.
With all of the aftermath of World War II and previous cities finally getting games that had been canceled previously, this was the year Detroit really thought they were a shoo-in to host the Olympics. So the city pushed hard for it and it appeared that support was coming in from all over the world the Motor City. Plans once again were designed for a stadium, this time on Wayne State University's campus, and it was the only facility for hosting an Olympics that was lacking in Detroit. The decision was to be made in Rome in spring 1949.
Along with Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco were also bidding, but the U.S.O.C. decided to back Detroit. But a new I.O.C. member from Los Angeles, the city that had hosted in 1932, was aggressively trying to get the games again and convince the rest of the committee that it was the only U.S. city fit to be a host, ignoring the decision of the U.S.O.C.. For that and several other reasons, including apparent confusion with the U.S.O.C. as far as which U.S. city they were backing, none of the U.S. cities were chosen and the games ended up in Melbourne, Australia.
Detroit once again had massive support, including the President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower. And this time the U.S.O.C. was unified behind Detroit as well. But unfortunately, a poll among International Federation chiefs showed that 16 of 17 of them wanted the games in Europe this time. And so it was, as Rome, Italy was chosen because the 'Eternal City" had never had one.
You can't say Detroit wasn't persistent. Once again they went at it hard and had everything needed to host the games with the exception of an Olympic Stadium. Tokyo, Japan was hoping to get it this time since they had withdrawn in 1940 due to war. And thanks to a connection with an I.O.C. member, who enjoyed collecting Asian art, Detroit was quickly bypassed. In fact, that person even said "we hope you come back again" to the Detroit bid team before a vote was made.
Despite all of the previous losses, this one is the one that hurt the most for Detroit. Not only was it their 8th consecutive try, but it was the closest the city ever came to finally being awarded the Olympic Games. They missed out by just one single vote. And the irony is that those in Detroit who had been vying for the games now for decades were being encouraged by some to give up already.
But the Governor of Michigan and the Detroit Mayor stayed behind the effort and once again, the backing was there to make an aggressive bid. Detroit had 19 venues, with organizers saying they could host all of the games within a 20-mile radius. But when the bid came down to Detroit and Mexico City, they lost by one vote. Why? The difference-maker was that Mexico City was willing to offer 20 cents more per day to feed athletes.
This was Detroit's last try, and they have never tried again since then. And it was pretty much a weak attempt as no one was really expecting it to happen anymore. During the IOC session in Rome, where the decision was made, names of members of the Detroit bidding team were even misspelled. The Olympic Games went to Munich, West Germany.
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