Category Archives: 2016 olympics

>OBSERVATION: Looking forward to the Chicago Olympics

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Not considering the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, I felt pretty safe in predicting early on that Chicago will not get awarded the 2016 Olympics. My! My! How things can change.

If President Obama puts in a major effort, as he said he would and I have no doubt he will, then the odds change dramatically. When this decision is made next year, Obama will be at the peak of popularity as an international leader and personality. Other heads-of-state, who would have no reason to support the American bid under war-monger Bush or his look-alike successor, can be persuaded to gain points with the new leader of the free world by supporting the Olympic bid through their representative on the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

With ties to Africa, Asia and the Middle East, Obama is arguably the most international President we have since our English-bred founders. Most certainly, a number of national representatives on the liberal leaning IOC will find it appealing to indirectly endorse the election of America’s first African-American (with an Arabic name, no less) to hold the Oval Office. The OIC will like the image of President Barack Obama cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremonies.

Obama helps the Chicago bid in other ways. Chicago’s shortcomings in infrastructure will be quickly corrected by an infusion of federal dollars. If Obama removes U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, the rising tide of indictments would likely crest before reaching the fifth floor of City Hall. Political leadership in Chicago will again be “stable.”

While any President may want the Olympics, Obama has the strongest motivation to put this higher up on his priority list. No only will he be lobbying on behalf of his country, but for the benefit of his home town – and the political machine that got him where he is today.

Another Obama advantage is taming the civic wolves. A lot of civic organizations, largely minority groups led by local community organizers, have already fired warnings across the bow of the local Olympic support committee. Civil unrest is never attractive to the IOC. Once their beloved Obama endorses the plan, these voices of opposition will fall silent.

From no chance, Obama, in my view, has transformed Chicago into the city to beat for the Olympics.

>OBSERVATION: Chicago Olympics? Not likely.

>According to the latest reports, of the four finalist cities, Chicago is in third place in public support for the Olympics with a luke warm 74 percent. Madrid takes the gold with 90 percent public support. Rio de Janeiro is second with 77 percent, and Tokyo is out of medal range with an embarrassing 59 percent support. The people of Tokyo hosted a summer Olympics in the past. Should their lack of enthusiasm tell us something?

So far, the Chicago Olympic bid is generating nothing but positive civic booster publicity. So much so, that it is ominous that one-fourth of the public is not enthused. I suspect Rio will boost its ranking and Chicago will slip a bit as some of the downsides and objectors begin to surface.

The two big factors are money and infrastructure. While the Chicago Olympic committee talks about the enormous inflow of case from the quadrennial event, most Chicagoans know that optimistic economic b—s— is the standard in Chicago.

There is the case of the enormous cost overruns for Millennium Park and the short fall in the Grant Park parking garage as a source of funding. One of the major reasons Mayor Daley wants the Chicago Children’s Museum in Grant Park is to shore up the garage revenues – and that probably will be the next disappointment. The foredoomed bottle tax is generating only 25 percent of the revenue the smarty-guy economic forecasters predicted.

It is almost beyond debate that Olympic costs will soar and revenues will fall very short of projections, IF Chicago is selected by the International Olympic Committee. It is the Chicago way.
While much has been said about private sector funding of the Olympic bid, a lot more taxpayer money will be spent than anyone in City Hall will admit. And even the so-called private funding will be provided by CEOs from the corporate treasury – indiscriminately using stockholder money instead of their own. Again, it is the Chicago way.

The lust for the Olympics does not come from grass-level civic pride, but rather from elitist insiders who see the international games as the next cash cow/ego trip. For the Mayor, it is a jewel in the career crown, with tons of dinero to spread around to friends. There are those who will enjoy enormous financial windfalls, and those who will get all the front row seats and headtable assignments — and those who will get both. The only people who will be left out of the goodies are those paying the tab. Taxpayers and corporate shareholders will be footing the bill, but left fighting for a few tickets in the upper decks. The Chicago way.

If I am correct, however, the only money that will be wasted is the taxpayer and shareholder contributions to the Olympic bid effort. There is an overriding reason Chicago will not get the Olympics, in my opinion. It is C-O-R-R-U-P-T-I-O-N. The political/business environment of Chicago is just too greedy and crooked to be trusted to handle the Olympics.

Perhaps we locals are used to operating within this culture of corruption, but we cannot expect the OIC to embrace our low standards of public service and political performance. The international folks are not fitted with the same civic blinders that prevent us locals from seeing the corruption and criminality that characterizes our political culture.

As Olympic plans move forward, it is likely that controversy will ensue. Who is getting appointed to what? And why? Wired in contracts. Dislocation of neighborhoods. Disruption and environmental denigration of green space.

There is also the emboldenment of the civic community in response to the increasingly autocratic style of the Mayor. The night time destruction of Meigs and the forced imposition of the Children’s Museum in Grant Park were victories for the Mayor. In their wake, however, there appears to be an anti-Daley coalition forming. Behind closed doors, many civic activists see the sinking of the Mayor’s pet Olympic project as the perfect retribution. Given the natural problems the Chicago bid already faces, it will not take a lot of civic turmoil to scare off the OIC.

There is also the question of “the great uncertainty.” The IOC will make the final decision in 2009, but they must envision the Chicago of 2016. Given the growing financial crises at the city and county levels, and the uncertainty of the power of the historic Democrat machine, there is ever reason to question whether Chicago can provide the longer term stability the IOC would be seeking.

If you have any desire to be in the stands for the 2016 Olympics, I would book a flight to Rio.