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On this day in 1963: Romney helps Detroit’s Olympics bid

By: - February 14, 2019 4:27 pm

On this day in 1963, Gov. George Romney formed a five-person finance committee to find money to construct an Olympic Stadium complex on the Michigan State Fairgrounds.

The idea was designed to strengthen Detroit’s bid to host the 1968 Summer Olympic Games.

The committee included Chair Donald Valley, president of the National Bank of Detroit; William L. Sledman, Romney’s special finance adviser; and Alfred Pelham, Detroit’s comptroller. The other two members would be named later.

Detroit — which was America’s fifth largest city — had secured the United States Olympic Committee’s endorsement in 1962 to bid for the games. The city of Detroit would clear a major hurdle in March 1963 and become the only U.S. city authorized to bid for the games beating out Los Angeles.

Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh then commissioned and produced a promotional video to help the city’s effort.

“We’ve had a tremendous outpouring of enthusiasm and support since we returned from New York,” Cavanagh said after a March 18 meeting with the United States Olympic Committee. “I would hate to see this enthusiasm wane to any degree.”

Detroit, however, would ultimately lose the 1968 hosting opportunity to Mexico City. The Olympic complex on the Michigan State Fair Grounds did not materialize.

In 1999 — 36 years later — Romney’s son, Mitt Romney, was tapped to clean up a scandal plaguing the organization for the 2002 Olympic Games, which were to be held in Salt Lake City.

The younger Romney is now a Republican U.S. senator representing Utah.

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.