Tulsa Disavows Using Trail of Tears as Sales Pitch for Olympics Bid
Indian Country Today
"We are not actively seeking an Olympic bid," Tulsa Sports Commission Senior Vice President Roy Hoyt said at a press conference yesterday. "Or supporting it."
The press conference, called by Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett and Hoyt, was set up to make it clear that a 2024 Summer Olympic Games bid was not an official city effort, at least not anymore.
The original idea for the bid came from Neil Mavis, who moved to Tulsa from Atlanta in 1997. Mavis was living in Atlanta when that city successfully bid to host the 1996 Summer Games, and that effort was his inspiration for trying to bring the massive sporting event to Tulsa. According to the Tulsa World, "Mavis made a pitch to the City Council in August 2009, when the Olympic Exploratory Committee included then-Councilor John Eagleton.
"In April 2011, the mayor and all nine councilors signed letters asking the U.S. Olympic Committee to invite Tulsa to make a bid.
"More recently, this May, Bartlett signed a letter designating Mavis as the mayor's official representative to the U.S. Olympic Committee 'to advance the city of Tulsa's interest in bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics.' Mavis even got to use city of Tulsa business cards."
Although Bartlett and Hoyt emphasized that the logistics and cost of staging the Games would likely be beyond anything Tulsa could reasonably do (it's estimated the Olympics would cost $5 billion, more than half the state of Oklahoma's annual budget), uproar in Indian country over Mavis's Tulsa2024 website's outrageous use of the Trail of Tears atrocity as a sales pitch must have been a factor in their decision to call this press conference to distance the city from the effort–at least it's hoped so.
Tulsa2024.com states: "Over half of the States in the USA are of Native American origin. The Olympic Torch would travel though these Native American named states and follow one, or more of the many Trail of Tears to Indian Territory, and end in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, headquarters of the Cherokee Nation. The Olympic Torch would then travel from Tahlequah, OK to Tulsa to the start of the 2024 Games."
As Travis Waldron of ThinkProgess observes, the most absurd part of the Tulsa Olympic bid "amazingly isn’t the bid itself — it’s that organizers apparently think incorporating the Trail of Tears on the Olympic torch route as a 'nod to the state’s American Indian history' is a good idea … Using the Trail of Tears as part of an Olympic bid is outrageous, but it’s also just an extension of the thoughtlessness the sports world has applied to Native Americans for decades."
"We don't want to apologize for or throw water on Mr. Mavis's desire to represent his city," Bartlett said at the press conference. "But we certainly don't want it to get out of hand."
An official bid for the Games would have to come from the host city's mayor, so this announcement by Bartlett and the Tulsa Sports Commission deeply dampens the viability of Mavis's scheme. However, cities won't start officially bidding for several years, so there's yet time for the city of Tulsa to put its seal of approval on and weight behind the for-now private movement. If they do, perhaps it can be done in a respectful way. Original indications back in April suggested that Indian country would be a part of the bidding process, an intriguing idea with lots of positive potential to bring attention to and input from American Indians and tribal nations.
But the effort has clearly taken a hostile approach, using one of the most horrendous acts committed by the U.S. government–the forced removal of American Indians from their homelands in what is today the U.S. Southeast, with thousands dying during the "relocation"–as marketing material.