While rummaging around my dad's sock drawer once I found something that captured my imagination. It was a small piece of embossed metal-a souvenir of a World's Fair. Upon my discovery of the trinket I took it to my room and carefully put it into a jar that held all of my most valuable possessions. For years it stayed in that jar alongside my favorite marbles, a Buffalo Nickel, what I believed at the time to be the world's largest diamond (turned out to be a crystal from one of those tacky chandeliers) and an Indian Head Penny, some buttons and a couple of river stones.
Some nights I'd lie in bed holding this souvenir and wonder about the person who brought it home. Did the World's Fair live up to the expectations of the attendee? What it was like to attend an event like a World's Fair? To visit a place that was the focus of the entire world. I wanted desperately to attend a World's Fair, as a kid in the early '80s I didn't understand that World's Fairs were past their prime. The episode of The Simpson, 'Bart on the Road,' is one of my favorites because of the World's Fair connection.
I credit the sense of wonder that piece of metal awoke in me for keeping me out of a lot of trouble others in my neighborhood and family fell into. That and having a mother that never spared the proverbial rod, but my curiosity and understanding that there was more to the world than what was going on the west side of Chicago had a lot to do with it.
Like a lot of people in Chicago right now, I can't avoid all of the talk about the bid for the Olympics. Unfortunately, what I'm reading is mostly negative because the media is quick to put a microphone before those that yell the loudest or are the most negative and amplify them because controversy sells. One thing I've noticed recently is that many of the people who are against bringing the Olympics to Chicago were also against Wal-Mart because it was "bad" for Chicago. Nothing like change, as small as it may be, to unite the hipsters, "activists." and Chicagoans for the stay--who will move when they're done with school or get a better job in New York or Los Angeles-- and give them an opportunity to talk about what is wrong with Chicago or to explain how they know what's better for Chicago and its residents. If only somebody would just make them Mayor.
While making the rounds of blogs populated with this sage bunch today, I remembered a friend predicting our senior year in High School that she would one day compete in the Olympics. It made me search for my year book and while flipping through the pages I realized just how many friends or acquaintances I had then that participated in sports, track & field being the most popular, who lived on the south or west side. Many of them probably already have kids or will have kids by the time the Olympics rolled.
Honestly, I don't care about sports or that the Olympics would bring tourists or what jobs it will or won't create. I support the Olympic bid because of what it would mean to the future Olympic hopefuls growing up in Chicago right now. I support the Olympic bid because I'm an uncle to three great kids under five who I want to experience what Chicago would be like while the games are being held. I want them to go downtown and rub shoulders with people from around the world, I want them to hear the roar of thousands cheering people living their dream, even if they only get to hear it from outside of a stadium. I need them to know that there is more to the world than the west side of Chicago. I want for them and everyone else growing up in Chicago to have that sense of wonder that little piece of metal awoke in me.
I find it alternately sad and funny that many in the anti-Olympics crowd just over a year ago were voting for "hope" and "inspiration" and are now actively working to kill the chances of hope and inspiration making a comeback in neighborhoods that need it. Does Chicago have problems? Yes. But there's no reason why we can't work on those problems and host the world. It doesn't have to be one or the other. By Friday we'll how Chicago's Olympic bid worked out. I'd be lying if I said I had faith that it would go off without a hitch, but if the Olympics inspired even just one Chicago youth to but down a gun and do something better with their life, it would be worth the millions we could potentially be on the hook for. This is why I back the bid.
Did my High School friend who made that prediction make it to the Olympics? I don't know and I'm not going to Google, I'd hate to find her on Facebook and learn that her dream didn't come true. I'd rather she remain that young woman getting ready for college, full of hope, promise and a dream to one day compete in the Olympics.
Good luck Chicago.
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