Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oprah, Obama, Olympics, Oh My

By Barbara D'Amato

On October 2, the International Olympic Committee will decide whether Chicago will host the 2016 Olympic Games. Michelle Obama will travel to Copenhagen to make a case for Chicago to act as host.

Over the last few weeks, friends have lobbied me, both for and against Chicago hosting the Olympics. As if I have any say in the matter. But they want to convince me their view is right.

Con: The traffic congestion downtown will be horrible.
Pro: Transportation has all been worked out. And yes, Oprah’s block party, arguably a dry run, seemed to go well. [Duh]

Con: the construction ahead of time is going to mess up the whole area. Well, I live nearby, and I can imagine it will be dusty and noisy.
Pro: Construction will create jobs. And the buildings will be useful later.

Con: somehow the taxpayers will get stuck with the bill.
Pro: Mayor Daley says donors and developers are already lined up.

Actually, our own David Heinzmann is an expert on this, and I know next to nothing, so I’ll leave it at that. Opinions differ. But do I think some people are going to make a lot of gray money from this? Uh, yes.

Pro: it will showcase Chicago as a world class city. The events and Chicago’s many real excellences will be seen around the world—our incomparable architecture, our lovely lake, our parks.
Con: Who needs it?

And that’s an interesting question.

Is it worth it? When you see Chicago on the news worldwide—and for something other than yet another governor heading off to prison—does it make you feel proud to live in Chicago?

Does it make your heart beat faster?


Kathy Holmes said...

I don't live in Chicago, but I think having the Olympics in your city can be a nice boost. We were so fearful of the crowds the L.A. Olympics would bring that we stayed away - and later regretted it because it wasn't that bad - maybe many others stayed away, too.

Pete said...

Of course the developers are already lined up - it's the donors I worry about. I suspect a lot of assurances are being made right now by people who are crossing their fingers that they'll never be asked to follow through. Remember, this is a city that can't build a major park without going hundreds of millions over budget and several years overdue. Somebody's going to be left holding the bag - taxpayers.

Call me presumptive, but I assumed Chicago already is a world-class city and is recognized as such. Never mind the woeful public transportation and schools...

R.D. Ray said...

There will, no doubt, be some drawbacks to the Olympics, but the positives will outweigh the negatives. Chicago has always lived in the shadow of New York City (The Second City), yet the Columbian Exposition was here and people still remember it. The 2016 Olympics are an opportunity to once more bring the world to our doorstep. Chicago is a world class city but there are still a great many people on this planet who don't know that the great plays are produced in Chicago and then sent to New York to be the big hits. A great many people don't know that there is a large American city that is clean and beautiful and full of any kind of entertainment you could imagine. Beyond the short-term money that will be generated by the actual olympics, the exposure would generate visits and revenue for the future. Remember that O'Hare was the world's busiest airport until the olympics were held in Atlanta and then hmmm, what happened? Besides, I live downtown and I could leave town for a while, while renting my place out to visitors, generating some olympic income of my own. Self-serving reasoning? Okay, why not?

Sara Paretsky said...

I know I'm a miserable snert, but I do not want these Olympics. No city has ever been able to recoup the money spent on building facilities, and very little trickles down to the neighborhoods that really need it. This city is short on public transit, our roads are a shocking mess, don't even start on the schools--and if we tie up all available funds in Olympic building, our infrastructure will suffer even more. One of my confidential sources says Daley is desperate for the Olympics to prop up his failing regime. He's mortgaged so much of the city's future already, I hope the committee doesn't punish us by catering to Obama. Give them to Tokyo. Go to Rio. Go anywhere but here

Barbara D'Amato said...

Kathy--yes, maybe we have been more worried about crowds than necessary. Pete, I quite agree that if anything falls short it's the taxpayers' baby. And Sara--I think you are quite reasonable, not a snert. R.D. I don't know the financial stuff, but your prie in Chicago comes through.

I can't say you've got my mind made up, but this is good input.