The 2016 Olympic Bid: Something Rotten in Denmark
Not that I'm allowed to say anything that could somehow harm "our" (by "our," I clearly mean "Chicago's Mayor Daley") chances of getting the Olympics, but really. I mean, really. Here we are, three days from the decision and the radio host on WGN can't seem to acknowledge a viable reason to oppose the Olympics other than simple non-conformity, we're already celebrating our victory and planning out our parades and improvements and even Barack Obama is getting in on the fun
Mr Obama will travel with his wife Michelle to make a speech to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at its meeting on Thursday. Chicago is competing with Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo to host the event. The Brazilian and Spanish heads of state are also expected to support their countries' bids at the meeting. Mr Obama will become the first US president to campaign so prominently on behalf of an Olympic bid.
Not that he really had any choice. If Barack Obama had not gone to Copenhagen, the media, particularly in his adopted home city of Chicago, would have roasted him alive, possibly even putting Oprah on a higher plateau (not that we don't already, although I once saw her at Water Tower Place on the escalator wearing pants that were an inch too short), calling him unpatriotic, not proud of his country. Now that he chose to go, they're roasting him alive for leaving at a time of "great crisis." I'm relatively convinced the rumors are right: the IOC guaranteed us the games if we produced Barack Obama. Otherwise his taking part wouldn't be worth it. Because, as Mary of Freedom's Eden points out, there are plenty of other things out there that could take priority.
We appreciate it. Really, we do. No, seriously. I actually do. In fact, if this weren't Chicago, or, alternatively, if Chicago weren't, well, Chicago, I'd even be actively supporting it. I'm actually, to tell you the truth, finding it really hard to oppose the Olympics. I mean, who hates the Olympics? What kind of soul-less bastard wouldn't want the world's greatest athletes competing in her backyard? What kind of heartless, shiftless human being wouldn't want to promote peace and international friendship and love and touchy-feely why-aren't-we-friends its-a-small-world-after-all until they die suddenly of too much love? And when it comes to Chicago, big multi-national displays of wealth, power, and bizarre inventions is in our history. We kicked the crap out of Paris in the World's Fair department back in the day (1893). And we did that during a massive economic depression as banks were collapsing left and right, despite all odds and a violently protracted timeline, and when Chicago was most famous for slaughtering entire herds of cattle every day just outside the city limits. And, speaking of Daniel Burnham, the Chicago 2016 Olympic plan does its best to complete his perfect vision of an urban paradise, the 1909 Plan of Chicago.
The truth is, I don't want to oppose it. I want to support it. I want to volunteer to take part in one of those weird choreographed dances they make the host cities do. I want to pay ten times what tickets are worth to see a sport I don't even care about, like Badminton. I want to do my part to foster international relations by purchasing loads of drinks for foreign tourists and then giving them bad directions to popular attractions. I want to irreparably damage those same relations by renting out my apartment for an obscenely high price.
The problem is, well, Chicago.
No, dear friends, that's right. I don't oppose the Games in Chicago because, as Alan Colmes so deftly put it on his blog, I'm a conservative and just flat out can't stand that Obama would bring back a win to his fair "home city," and be honored with a ticker tape parade and more adulation than is already heaped on him without reason. Its because, living in the heart of Chicago, I know better.
Tons of projects undertaken by the Chicago city government, from Millennium Park to Block 37 to the slow zone elimination project on the Blue Line have come in way over budget and years after their anticipated end date, if they ever came in at all (see e.g. Block 37, which purported to connect all of the El lines at a central hub, but succeeded in becoming a block-long and block-wide half-done-then-abandoned eyesore). And there's no such thing as "under-budget" when it comes to Chicago; the taxpayers of Illinois are on the hook for anything the IOC, private investors and Congress doesn't cover, so if we don't turn a profit, and given the sordid history of US Olympic cities, we probably won't, we'll be paying dearly for our few weeks of fun (and that's without considering what we've already paid - $200 million of Chicago city funds has been committed just to fix up the Olympic Village site).
Right as I'm about to get rid of Todd Stroger, the Cook County executive responsible for raising Chicago's sales tax to the highest rate in the country, and just after I've been hit with massive taxes on junk food (which they can't even define), I'm going to take on an extra tax on food/trees/having windows/having furniture/breathing/whatever to pay for the Decathalon? Doesn't sound like something I would actively vote for if I could. Which I can't. The decision was made without any input from the city's population, who are about evenly split on their approval of the Games.
Sure, there will be some benefits. According to the city offices, we'll have improved transportation, some tourism - at least during the games - and of course, the jobs and economic benefits that come with actually building Olympic-sized athletic venues. Despite their optimism, though, there's really very little chance these benefits will extend beyond the city to the "entire region" as claimed (anyone without a serious interest in farmland or, for that matter, masochism, will probably not venture further south than Joliet), and the people who will stand to earn the most off the games won't be the citizens; they'll be developers, union contractors, people with sweet insider deals, members of the Daley Olympic team who have been quietly hoarding potentially valuable land (who are, conveniently, already in hot water for insider dealings in the public school system) and possibly even President Obama's Olympic SuperFan Valerie Jarratt.
If we get the Olympics on Friday, I suppose I'll be as excited as I need to be considering the circumstances, and I'll be supportive. I might even be really excited. I might not buy a tee shirt until I'm sure I won't be paying for the Olympic Village...but you know.
BlogHer is a 501(c)(3) and therefore non-partisan, but that doesn't mean its bloggers (including me!) are non-partisan. Stay tuned for more of my coverage of the Olympics if and when I have to sacrifice my sanity and my paycheck for a fabulous 2016.