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hicago is not called the City of Big Shoulders for nothing. Chicagoans always think big. In various eras, Chicago has had the biggest stockyards, tallest building and busiest airport. It boasts world-class architecture, an internationally-acclaimed orchestra, outstanding museums and the largest downtown beach in North America. It also has a long tradition of bare-knuckle politics and a zestful approach to civic affairs.
In the best tradition of Chicago politics, the project was belittled, berated and ridiculed by the foes of its primary booster, none other than Mayor Richard Daley. The park's original $150 million price tag grew to $475 million, almost half of it raised privately and it opened four years late. Not bad as such things go. After all, Boston's Big Dig was five years late and billions over budget when it opened in late 2003. It has so far taken Virginia five years and $700 million to rebuild a freeway interchange south of Washington, D.C.
"What an eyesore it was," a beaming Daley said at the park's July 18, 2004, opening. "At first, somebody said, 'Let's just put a cover on it, and some grass.' But you listen to people who have great ideas. I deeply appreciate all the people who said, 'We can do it. Forget about the naysayers.'"
Perhaps the crowd's opening-day favorite was Cloud Gate, the 66-foot-long, 33-foot-high Anish Kapoor sculpture that has quickly come to be known as "the Bean." Its stainless-steel, mirrorlike surface generates an ever-changing series of warped reflections that captivate the eye and lift the spirit.
Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion has won plaudits for its excellent acoustics, said by big-shouldered Chicagoans to be -- what else? -- the best of any outdoor concert hall in the world.
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