The Olympics for Tulsa?

TulsaAn article on the front page of today’s New York Times sounds eerily familiar. Appearing under the headline “London. Tokyo. Athens. Tulsa?”, the story by Mary Pilon reports on the unlikely but ambitious dream to bring the Olympic Games to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Clearly the booster ambitions of Oklahoma are as alive today as they were in 1945, when three towns from the Sooner State were put forward as host locations for the United Nations. The contender nearest to Tulsa, Claremore, was so determined that boosters with brochures once showed up at the Tulsa airport at 2 a.m. to ambush a team of UN diplomats as their plane refueled. A second Oklahoma hopeful, Tuskahoma, resonated locally as the former capital of the Choctaw Nation. To put the United Nations there would be a statement of social justice, proponents argued. Stillwater also stepped up for the honor of becoming the Capital of the World, although the initial newspaper editorial about the idea was mostly egged on by letters from bored servicemen stationed nearby.

Thanks to Eric Banks, the incoming director of the New York Institute for the Humanities, and Alex Gallafent of Public Radio International for calling the Olympics story to my attention. New Yorkers who would like to talk more about the race to create a Capital of the World at the end of World War II are invited to join me this Wednesday at the Mid-Manhattan Library for an illustrated talk and conversation. (If anyone wants to accompany us with the soundtrack of Oklahoma!, it will be perfectly appropriate for the history as well as the current events.)


Indian Country to Host 2024 Olympics? (Indian Country Today)

Memo: Demonstration Sports for the 2020 Olympiad (The Lost Ogle)

Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations (Alex Gallafent for PRI’s The World – with great music!)


Will Rogers, Citizen of the World

Tribute to a citizen of the world. (Library of Congress)

Tribute to a citizen of the world. (Library of Congress)

If you have seen the stage or film version of Oklahoma!, then you have brushed up against Claremore, Oklahoma.  The 1943 musical was based on the play “Green Grow the Lilacs” by Claremore writer Lynn Riggs, and it retained passing references to Claremore as a town where rural folk might catch the train to up-to-date Kansas City, where ranch hands might get drunk, or where a traveling salesman might lure an unsuspecting maiden upstairs in a hotel. At the time when the United Nations was searching for a headquarters location, the town also had a place on the map, literally, as the first Oklahoma town reached by westbound Route 66, the popular highway that swept diagonally across the nation from Chicago to southern California.

These were not, however, the motivations for local residents to declare that Claremore would be the perfect location for the Capital of the World.  Their inspiration was native son Will Rogers.

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