Last night was the opening ceremonies for the World Boxing Championships, an "exhilarating" event that was creative directed by my brother Andrew. My parents came up from Indiana, and Sloan and I and a bunch of other friends went to the Chicago Theater for the festivities.
The World Boxing Championships are Olympic qualifying events, and there were hundreds of boxers there from around the world, some of whom have never left their home countries. Andrew told me that it was a surprise for the athletes that the parade down State Street ended with them entering the theater by marching across the stage waving the flag of their country, and you could see the excitement and pride on their faces as they realized they were entering to the cheers of a standing audience. A boxer from Azerbaijan described Chicago and the ceremony as "Very good, very beautiful."
Everyone was very aware of Chicago's need to impress the International Olympic Committee members in the audience, since hosting the 2016 Olympics is an important goal for the city, so, after Mayor Daley spoke and AIBA president Ching-kuo Wu said "This proves the city of Chicago has total capacity to organize bigger events," the crowd went crazy with cheers, and Daley, behind him on the stage, beamed and smiled.
Then they announced the arrival of a surprise special guest, and you could feel the emotional temperature in the room rising. They introduced him with little bits of information at a time, and you could feel the crowd collectively trying to figure out who they were talking about, and when it was clear they were talking about Muhammad Ali, the excitement crested with scream and cheers, and everyone rose to their feet.
As the The Trib described it, "Every boxer stood in jubilation, and the crowd, including Mayor Richard Daley, who called Ali a 'great Chicagoan and a great human being,' began chanting, 'Ali, Ali, Ali.'"
It was a fun moment. I was proud of my brother and his work, and proud to feel like a real Chicagoan.