Now that the qualifying trials for U.S. Olympic Teams have ended and the countdown to the Games begins, consider this: Detroit-Windsor could be the next Rio in a decade or two. And if a straw poll means anything, there is strong support in West Michigan for a Detroit-Windsor alliance to make it happen.
There’s healthy scepticism on both sides of the state that are tied to a thousand questions, such as whether Detroit has the persistence to seek such a world class honor and whether officials at the city, state-province and federal level can work together even to submit a proposal.
But then again, there are people like Steve Waterbury, who has raised the “Why Not?” question with dozens of West Michigan business leaders and local influencers during the past year. For Steve, it’s been just acknowledging a great idea when he sees one, not tied to his formal day job as partner at Warner Norcross & Judd LLP where he has practiced law for 37 years.
“I’ve had two responses that were pretty frequent,” Steve says. “”Gee, that is a great idea and someone ought to do that,’ and “Gee, we can’t even get a bridge built to Canada during the past 10 years, so how can we get something as huge as the Olympics done.’”
But when you examine the facts put together last year in a thoughtful analytical package by JC Reindl for the Detroit Free Press, you come around to Steve’s viewpoint that an Olympic bid not only could be done, but should be done. Here’s a link to the main article done by newspaperman Reindl: Olympic dreaming: Could Detroit ever host the games?
Steve doesn’t harbor illusions that this would be a simple task, or as he put it, a case where “something like this could get done with everyone just talking about this wonderful idea and then we all sing Kumbaya.”
It would be much more akin to trench warfare: relentless, painstaking small steps taken over probably two administrations of governors, several changes in the roster of legislators and headed by someone with statewide stature who would put his or her reputation on the line. Think along the lines of individuals such as Gov. Snyder, Dan Gilbert, Dennis Archer and Roger Penske.
Further, several sets of governments would need to cooperate and agree on the particulars: Detroit-Windsor, Michigan-Ontario, U.S.-Canada. But in that tangle of negotiations lies the appeal -- where else could an Olympics be held with such tight international bonds?
West Michigan can’t take the lead on this, but it can play a vital role with its experience in using public-private partnerships to get large projects done and its optimism about Michigan. “In my opinion, West Michigan has a strong desire for Detroit to heal and grow,” Steve says. “I heard a third category of responses when I talked about a Detroit Olympics -- the concept that we would all benefit from having a powerful vision over a period of years trying to do something as one state.”