The Legacy of Chicago’s 2016 Olympic Bid

Site of the former Michael Reese Hospital (Courtesy of Joe Zekas/YoChicago!)

Site of the former Michael Reese Hospital (Courtesy of Joe Zekas/YoChicago!)

The Summer Olympic Games begin in Rio de Janiero today. And amid the pageantry and intrigue and brand logos are the lingering worries about the game-centric infrastructure.

Much has been written about how Rio simply doesn’t have its act together. Twitter is full of horror stories from Olympians longing for the days before it was required to hold the Games in every third world craphole around the globe.

But then again, Rio Olympic Village is streets ahead of Chicago’s, as illustrated by the photograph above from Joe Zekas over at YoChicago!. It shows the former Michael Reese Hospital site, which was supposed to become the windy city’s Olympic village for the 2016 games.

Since State Street isn’t thick with hawkers peddling knock-off Olympic merchandise, you might have guessed that Chicago didn’t win the bid. Some blame it on political correctness. Others blame the naysayers who badmouth any big plans the city tries to make, yet contribute little, themselves. The truth is somewhere between.

Chicago even had a super-cool Olympic logo from VSA Partners, but that also was taken away from us. It featured the city’s skyline in shades of red, orange and yellow, mimicking flames. The skyline illustration, recalling the city rising from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire, was reflected in shades of blue and green, symbolizing the handle of a torch and paying homage to our beloved Lake Michigan.

It was only after the logo was used on everything from T-shirts to street banners that we found out that using a torch in an Olympic logo is verboten. Ditto for rings, flags, metals, and pretty much anything else Olympics-related.

So tonight, millions of people around the world will turn on televisions and watch the athletes parade in Maracanã Stadium instead of Soldier Field. Bob Costas will wax poetic about the various types of salgadinhos instead of showing the world the proper way to top a hot dog. And Brazil will reap billions in tax dollars, and billions more in free publicity.

But at least we’ve got a big empty lot next to Lake Michigan.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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