University athletes have always had a prominent place in the Olympic Games. From track and field to the most prominent face of the 2008 games, Michael Phelps, athletes have represented the Maize and Blue well in international competition. But what if instead of just competing in the games, the University hosted them?
In 1958 the University almost got that chance.
That year the United States, along with three other countries — Japan, Austria, and Belgium — was being considered to host the games in 1964.
Many believed that the United States would be selected, and if chosen, Detroit would have been the front-runner to host the games. The other possible cities were Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles — which hosted the Games in 1932.
If Detroit had been selected as the hosting city, former University Athletic Director H. O. “Fritz” Crisler said he would have allowed the use of Michigan Stadium, Ferry Field and Yost Field House for the track and field games.
Crisler added that he would’ve also allowed the use of University Housing facilities.
Greg Kinney, associate archivist at the Bentley Historical Library, said that the Michigan Stadium was listed to potentially host soccer matches, and the University could have also been used for swimming and diving.
Although Michigan never got the chance to host the Olympics, the state had a few proposed plans just in case.
Former State Sen. John Swainson (D–Detroit) proposed a plan to build a 100,000-seat stadium at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit to accommodate the Olympics.
In addition, new hotels were scheduled to be built in Detroit prior to 1964 to house spectators.
But it was not to be. On May 26, 1959, Tokyo, Japan won the right to host the Olympics with 34 bidding votes by the International Olympic Voting Committee. Detroit came in second place with 10 bidding votes. Vienna, Austria and Brussels, Belgium followed with 9 and 5 bidding votes, respectively.