It doesn't hurt to dream, but no one should get too excited about Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's proposal to host the 2016 Summer Olympics and the possible use of University of Illinois facilities in a Chicago bid.
Last week, in one of his famous impromptu press conferences, Daley mentioned how a Chicago Olympics might make use of existing facilities away from Chicago.
"You look at Indiana, Wisconsin, Milwaukee, South Bend," the mayor blurted. "You have the University of Illinois at Champaign. Then you look at how well you improve transportation to Champaign-Urbana. You would need it. You need better transportation to Milwaukee, you need better transportation to South Bend.
"Remember, everything you do benefits not only the city but the region, and that's how you have to look at this."
Even talk of an Olympics in Chicago will benefit Daley, who needs something to help distract voters' attention from the scandals that have enveloped City Hall. Jane Byrne, a one-term wonder as mayor of Chicago from 1979-1983, tried something similar during the depths of her tenure. At one point she suggested that the city could hold a world's fair in 1992. It didn't work. That is, neither the world's fair idea nor Byrne's try for a second term.
This time, Daley seems to be suggesting that stadiums in Champaign, South Bend or Milwaukee could be used since Chicago does not have a venue to accommodate the 80,000 to 100,000 seats required for the Olympic Games' opening and closing ceremonies. (Soldier Field's capacity is just 61,500). But it would be difficult to imagine Chicago giving up the prestige of hosting such an essential Olympics event. Nor would the International Olympic Committee be expected to look fondly at the idea of holding the ceremonies 95 miles away (in the case of Notre Dame Stadium) or 140 miles away (Memorial Stadium) from the host city.
It's too early to say Chicago's Olympics bid is doomed. The city has until 2009, when the International Olympic Committee will decide, to make its case. But it might be worth recalling Chicago's less than stellar history of hosting the Olympics. Chicago was awarded the 1904 Olympics, only to see President Theodore Roosevelt successfully argue that the games should instead go to St. Louis, where the Louisiana Purchase World's Fair was being held.