Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Backing the Bid. I Think.

I know that loyal Green Room followers (we're up to 16 now!) are eagerly waiting for this blog to weigh in on Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics. No time like the present, because the announcement comes in a little over a day.

At first, I was completely gung-ho in favor of Chicago's bid to host the Olympics. I mean, how great would it be to have The Olympics HERE, in our own backyard? Think of the glory! Think of the excitement! Think of the infrastructure improvements and business opportunities!

Then I started reading more about the bid, from both opponents and supporters. Now I'm all confused and undecided.

This recent opinion piece in the Tribune from Edward Snyder, Dean of the University of Chicago School of Business, superficially suggests that the Games will "result in lasting value for generations to come." Setting aside the barren cliches and repetitive phraseology (the more degrees a person has, the more his writing suffers!), Snyder asks one relevant question--will investing in the Olympics "create lasting value" for the city?--but does not supply adequate proofs for his affirmative answer. persuasively argues that Chicago is a great place for the Olympics in terms of venues, convenience, beauty, and accessibility. But the real question is, will hosting the Olympics hurt Chicago financially in the long run, or help it--and there is substantial disagreement on this point. The 2016 Committee, of course, asserts that the proposed operating budget is realistically in the black.

The Civic Federation's analysis found that the Chicago 2016 proposed operating budget "provides adequate protection for taxpayers" at the same time that it recommends strategies for managing the real financial risks. The International Olympic Committee called Chicago's financial plan "ambitious but believable" with "an extensive sponsorship program."

Our city council voted unanimously earlier this month in favor of a "full governmental financial guarantee" for the city's $4.8 billion bid. I don't know whether the alder-creatures' full support makes me feel more secure about the financial risks of the bid, or more nervous. After all, these are the people who put the parking meter fiasco in motion.

On the opposite side of the bid, we have Chicagoans for Rio 2016, a satirical look at some real reasons to take a pause about backing the bid. CfR2016 even offers an online store selling shirts, bags, mugs and magnets emblazoned with the Chicagoans for Rio logo, featuring a runner dropping the Olympic torch. We love satire here at the Green Room.

Plus, my Edison friend Matt Farmer has been a one-man media blitz, posting his opposition more than once on Huffington Post and even tunefully opposing the bid with a YouTube satirical melody.

No Games Chicago attempts to make the case that we face an either/or choice between creating better hospitals, housing, schools and trains versus hosting the Olympics. I really don't get this argument. Are the nabobs saying that if we don't get the Olympics, the city will spend more on those items? Are they saying that if we get the Olympics, they will suck money away from schools and housing?

Some think that the Olympics will have the opposite effect: The Chicago Tribune recently suggested that "the games represent what could be [Mayor Daley's] best chance of overcoming the financial troubles that have made his job increasingly difficult." As in Snyder's piece quoted earlier, however, the reporter doesn't back it up.

As I said, I'm conflicted. I really, really want to be on board, to welcome the world to Chicago in 2016. I just don't know.

How's that for fence-sitting? And what do you think?

UPDATE: I'm sure you've heard by now that Chicago lost in the first round of IOC voting. I felt like I got kicked in the gut. My heart wanted the Olympics here, even though my head said it would probably end badly for Chicago taxpayers and (many) residents.

Now I'm just pissed off at the people who are using this as yet another opportunity for Obama-bashing. But I guess that's a blopic for another day.


jill said...

as a facebook fan of Chicagoans for Rio 2016, i have to say that i cannot imagine a scenario where the Olympics would benefit Chicago in the long-term. aldercreatures' and oprah's support makes me more wary, not less. everyone is afraid of Daly. who in her right mind would oppose him on this most dearly held pet project to end all pet projects? yes, maybe our roads and public trans would improve. but what about our south side parks and uprooted communities clearcut to make way for stadiums and venues that will be left empty forever the day after the games? on the other hand, my colleagues and i were talking about renting out our work cubes as cheap living quarters for tourists during the olympics, so that could mean some cash for me :) the parking meter scam of the century is enough to assure me that this city could not host the olympics without rampant scandal and massive debt. but i am a recovering pessimist, after all, so take it with a big grain of salt!

Boy George said...

I am adamantly opposed to the Chicago bid for the Olympics. Seeing how everything else is done in Chicago (I'm a regular reader of the Chicago Reader), only a fool would believe this project is designed primarily for the benefit of the wheeler-dealers and contractors who will take part, at the great expense of the citizenry of Chicago.

Jill is correct about everyone being afraid of Daley. There's no other way to explain the rubber stamps that are called the City Council. (Even those who talk about opposing one thing or another always end up caving in at the end!) Of course Oprah backs up Daley--she needs to be on his good side so she can have perks like hosting her TV show in the middle of Michigan Avenue.

I'm hoping against hope that Rio wins the bid. And if Chicago happens to lose (i.e., win the bid), I'm hoping that the even doesn't end up costing the city anything in terms of cost overruns (gee, those never happen here, do they? Millennium Park, anyone?) and raping of the park land and all manner of gouging that will occur on all fronts. I'm not holding my breath.

E. Peevie said...

Jill--agreed about Opie and the Creatures.

What parks and communities will be uprooted to make room for stadiums? I read parts of the plan--not the whole thing--but I don't remember reading this.

and BoyG--I think you mean "only a fool would believe this project is NOT designed primarily for the benefit of the wheeler-dealers."

I have an idea--what if the big O herself provides the financial guarantee for any cost overruns that occur? She can afford it, and you're right--she certainly won't miss an extra billion or so.

Boy George said...

Eek, you're right, E.! I meant to say the exact opposite of what I actually did say. (I wish I could edit my posts--I can DELETE them, but I can't edit them!)

And I LOVE your suggestion for Oprah. Would be wonderful--fat chance, but would be wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Here's my thought. Who really knows what will happen? No one. So, I say, in true Olympic spirit, let's go for it!!! Who can know what will be 7 years from now?? Neighbor plus 3

Boy George said...

HOORAY!!! Chicago won!!! (Meaning, Chicago got eliminated.)

Now maybe we have a chance at getting rid of Mayor Daley, since he won't have the Olympics to overshadow the TIFs, the parking meters, etc. Of course, he's probably now majorly P.O.'d, and will be even worse 'til he's gone...