After keeping us all on pins and needles these many months (years?), the Olympic Committee has spoken and failed to award the 2016 games to my favorite American city. I admit to being a little disappointed, although I’ve been mostly ambivalent about the whole thing, at most hoping that, if the games were awarded to Chicago, that the good (upgraded public transportation) would outweigh the bad (the city goes even deeper into debt, ends up selling itself to New York department store chains and Saudi princes, eventually pulls the whole state down with it, all social structure and governing authority breaks down; Oprah finally abandons the city (which is looking more and more like a cross between Bladerunner and Soylent Green) and takes all her magic with her; secret viruses in a University of Illinois lab are unleashed and by 2017 the Land of Lincoln will be crawling with flesh-eating zombies). (Look out, Wisconsin; we are coming for your dairy-rich flesh first.)
I admit to having spent some time thinking about how Chicago might handle the best part of the Olympics: the opening ceremony. These Wagnerian-scaled extravaganzas are essential to the success of the Olympics; any host city that fails to illustrate its complete history from the Epipalaeolithic period to the present day with dancers, gymnasts, actors, mimes, musicians, floats, wildlife, tamed animals, fire, water, rockstar smog, disco balls, smoke and mirrors, is hardly worth being a host city in the first place. Had the games been planned for Chicago, surely it was just a matter of time, due the runaway success of Matters of Taste, until the committee called on me to act as artistic director for the opening ceremonies. I had already started sketching out some plans, and hate to see them wither in the dustbin of history, so I offer here the:
After President Obama welcomes the audience and reveals that the Olympic seal is actually the Five Eternal Rings of Oprah, we start the show. Set: the dark stadium is slowly illuminated, eventually revealing a series of vignettes (rolling out across, like, maybe, seven or eight hours) that illustrate the growth of the city, from prehistory, to settlement in 1833, through the challenges and triumphs of the last 150 years, to now. Possible scenes include the following:
The Dawn of Time. The waters of chaos part (there is an actual body of water brought into the stadium), creating the Great Lakes. On the western shore of the greatest of them, Lake Michigan, the Creative Force bestows blessings by throwing glitter (this is not as hard to stage as it sounds—we just need to ask Oprah to recreate the original event). A reanimated Harry Caray pilots a Wendella boat across the lake; his voice breaks the silence as he greets the original ho-lee cow grazing on the shore. We have witnessed The Creation.
Indigenous Peoples. Portrayal of the Potawatomi as a Proud, Noble and Strong People-Group; gloss over the part where the settlers run them off their land. To make up for it perhaps stage a scene that credits them with the invention of the hot dipped beef.
Immigrants Build The City. Ethnically-diverse and adorable schoolchildren from across Chicagoland construct a model of the El tracks and the Sears Tower out of Frango Mints.
History. Ethnically-diverse and adorable schoolchildren from across Chicagoland reenact the Haymarket Riot.
Modern Calamity/Opportunity. Audience members, equipped not with flashlights or color cards but instead, stocked with matches and kindling, recreate a small version of the Great Chicago Fire; they are encouraged to later go burn the Macy’s company out of the Marshall Field Building
Historical Figures. Invite famous living Chicagoans to portray/give homage to famous dead Chicagoans: R. Kelly as Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable; Melba Lara as Mrs. O’Leary; Bill Murray as Jane Addams; Ira Glass (it’s a stretch, but we can claim him) as Al Capone; Jesse Jackson as Enrico Fermi; John Cusack as the entire Daley family (John Cusack will appear in the program early and often).
Industry. In an homage to the Stockyards and Chicago’s ethnic diversity: 1,833 pigs will be slaughtered and turned into Polish sausage to distribute among the crowd.
Cuisine and Religion. Gino’s rolls in the largest deep-dish pizza ever; Oprah jumps out of it.
Performing Arts. Wilco, Smashing Pumpkins, Naked Raygun and Cheap Trick (Rockford is close enough), and/or 1,833 blues guitarists will perform. Citywide ban placed on the band Chicago and Styx.
More Performing Arts. Hubbard Street Dance theatre performs a newly-commissioned work entitled 588-2300.
Athletics. Appearances by (1) Michal Jordan and the other guys who played for the Bulls during the 1990s; (2) the 1986 Bears (all team members holding the cords of a giant balloon in the shape of Ditka’s head) and (3) the 1908 Cubs.
Environment. Oprah fixes the weather so that there is even more wind than usual in the “windy city” (okee, yeah, I know da real meanin’ of da nickname iz political; my gad, dya think I got sassages fer brainz? Sheesh.)
All You Really Need. One show by Buddy Guy, and then throw everybody out of the stadium and back into the city they came to see, and get on with the gymnastics already.