UBC Graduate Research

Whitewash: Detroit’s ethnic population and the city’s bid for the summer Olympics 1944–1972 Dettmar, Benjamin James


Graduate student conference held December 4-5, 2009 at the University of British Columbia. Panel 1: Score and Peace? - Revisiting the Olympic Myth moderated by Ursula Baer. Abstract: "Detroit holds the dubious distinction of being the city with the most failed summer Olympic bids—seven. I will analyze these bids with specific attention on the bids for the 1964 and 1968 Olympics in which Detroit came second, and the 1972 Olympics in which Detroit came fourth. The 1960s were a crucial time in Detroit’s social history with the civil rights movement gaining momentum, Motown becoming popular, white flight taking effect, the economy stagnating, and the 1967 riots. I will analyze the bids to host the Summer Olympics in relation to Detroit’s social history. The presentation will assess how Detroit marketed itself for these Olympics. Did it do so as a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic city? Did the bid embrace the ethnic (Black, Arab, Mexican) community when trying to garner support for the games? Media sources such as Detroit’s promotional films will be examined, as well as the city’s newspapers, to ascertain how different journalists and audiences either embraced or denounced the idea of Detroit as an Olympic city. Finally, the question will be whether the city’s bids for the games can be deemed a ‘whitewash:’ did the city ignore its ethnic population, and did the organizing committee’s activities contribute to the civil unrest that occurred in Detroit?" This presentation can be found at 00:00:23 - 00:18:45 in the recording.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International