What do you do when your state’s history includes being the place where Andrew Jackson sent thousands of Cherokee to get them out of the way? And if, among those thousands of people, some thousands died of exposure en route? If you’re Tulsa, OK, you look at that history and think it could help you look good for the IOC:
The Games require an estimated work force of as many as 200,000, which would mean enlisting one of every two men, women and children within the city limits.
International Olympic officials require a host city to have a minimum of 45,000 hotel rooms. Tulsa has about 15,000. And the estimated price tag, which will almost certainly top $5 billion, is equivalent to more than half the state budget.
But Tulsa, its boosters argue, offers something that big-ticket American rivals like Los Angeles, Boston and Dallas can only dream of — the vast frontier of America.
This part of the country produced Woody Guthrie and Jim Thorpe. Neon signs still glow along Route 66. J. Paul Getty made his first million in Tulsa nearly a century ago, and the city’s Art Deco buildings have survived booms, busts and tornadoes. “The larger cities aren’t truly representative of what the real America is,” said Jennifer Jones of the Tulsa 2024 bid committee. “The real America is the midsize cities, and we want people to see America.”
Jennifer Jones, did you just use the phrase “real America” without irony?
Downtown Tulsa now has bistros in the carcasses of forgotten warehouses, and it has BOK Center, a gleaming arena that opened in 2008, further fueling the city’s national and international ambitions.
In a nod to the state’s American Indian history, the Olympic torch would be led along the solemn Trail of Tears, not far from where field hockey would be played in Tahlequah.
I encourage you to follow the link, look at the NPS page, and ask yourself: Does it seem like a good idea to drive a gigantic international sporting event through this place?
For more context, Travis Waldron at Think Progress points out:
A little history for Tulsa’s organizers: the Trail of Tears is the result of one of the most pernicious laws in American history — the Indian Removal Act of 1830 — and it is a marker of policies that nearly eradicated an entire indigenous population of people. The death toll on the trail ranges from the government’s record of 400 to others that estimate more than 4,000 died on the march. It doesn’t merit a “nod” from Olympic organizers, especially not when mega sporting events like the Olympics have a tendency to displace poor and indigenous populations to make room for facilities or to shield them from media and tourist attention. What it merits is education and awareness about the fact that large segments of the Native population are still struggling with the after-effects of government policies slanted against them, even more than a century and a half after they walked that trail.
The Olympics are…really not intended as a vehicle for spreading awareness of genocide and its role in a country’s history. It’s true that America wouldn’t exist as we know it without my ancestors having driven a wrecking ball through all the Native cultures, but the IOC has no intention of making that message a part of the 2024 games. That would be kind of a buzzkill; it’s so much easier to have a good Olympiad when you shove the poor and indigenous folks out of the way and act like they were never there in the first place.
In a way, pulling this plan off WOULD be a way for Tulsa to show the face of Real America to the world…but not in a way they should be proud of. As a matter of presenting ourselves to the rest of the world, it would probably be best to show them one of the big cities with sufficient infrastructure already in place.