When Chicago's Olympic Bid Depended on a Reporter

By: E&P Staff Monday's White House announcement that President Obama will travel to Copenhagen to personally promote Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics comes a day after Chicago Tribune reporter Oscar Avila recounted the city's final pitch for the 1952 Games that was made by ... a reporter.

As told by Avila, Chicago thought it was in a pretty good position to win the 1952 Summer Games. The head of the U.S. Olympics Committee, Avery Brundage, was a Chicago executive who would soon become the Games' iron-fisted ruler. Chicago had the internationally known Soldier Field stadium, and the mayor at the time assembled a delegation of luminaries to make the city's case, including Marshall Field III of the publishing and department store family and Philip Wrigley, the gum manufacturer.

"But then ... no one on the bid team showed up," wrote Avila. The leader of the delegation returned from Europe to attend the funeral of a business associate. The mayor never went, and the executive regarded as the prime mover of the bid decided to stay at his vacation home in Wisconsin.

"Desperate, the bid team tapped William Fulton, the Tribune's London correspondent," Avila wrote, noting that Fulton not only made the pitch, but wrote about it for the next day's paper. Not to be outdone, a journalist from the old Chicago Daily News, William McGaffin, "parachuted in to give his own impromptu sales pitch."

Not surprisingly, this last-minute stunt was not nearly enough to beat Helsinki, the eventual host. "As a result of the committee's bungling," the Tribune wrote at the time, "the city did not have a chance."

"So if Chicago 2016 comes home empty-handed after Friday's final decision, we had nothing to do with it," Avila wrote. "Not this time."


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