Where else in the world can four major events go on at the same time? Chicago may have lost the bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games, but it continues to attract world events, many of which take place at the same time.
Chicago recently hosted the Ryder Cup, the Chicago Marathon, Graph Expo and the Miami-Notre Dame football game at Soldier Field. The previous week, Chicago hosted the International Manufacturing Technology Show, the largest tradeshow in the U.S. All four hall floors of McCormick were used to carry the weight of large machine tools and host people from around the world.
Just imagine if our White Sox did not fold down the stretch. A Major League Baseball playoff game would also have taken place here. Some other cities may have the hotels and facilities to simultaneously host multiple events, but few have the infrastructure to manage the flow of people, transportation and parking like Chicago.
As I drove south down Michigan Ave. from McCormick Place with a client at Graph Expo, we saw golf-ball sculptures, football fans from Miami and Notre Dame dressed in their battle costumes and lines of cars with 26.2 (Chicago Marathon) stickers. I then began to really feel the load that Chicago’s big shoulders were capable of carrying in a single day.
The 35th annual Chicago Marathon hosted 45,000 runners and 1.7 million visitors. This event alone contributed $290 million to the Chicago economy. What other world event but a marathon would allow you see history in the making while letting you participate?
As participants ran 26.2 miles through the city streets with cheering crowds, the event had an international flavor when passing through Chinatown, the Spanish Pilson community and our American Wrigleyville neighborhood. As I stood in the crowd near the finish line, I watched Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the cast from the TV series “Chicago Fire” shout out with pride as Ethiopian winner Tsegaye Kebede crossed the finish line.
Their excitement was not only directed to the winners but also to the city that hosted the event. The real winners were some of the other 45,000 who ran for charity causes and personal pride to simply have participated or to just cross the line and finish. The world was watching.
The Europeans may have won the Ryder Cup (olla olla olla … yuuk!), and the Ethiopians may have won the marathon. But the greatest thrill came from the live spectators and the world audience who cheered on and watched these events unfold on the Chicago stage. It’s a small world after all.