Thursday, December 10, 2009
Throughout the city of Chicago's recent bid to land the 2016 Olympic games, I was pretty ambivalent about it. Some people were absolutely dead-set against it, others brought out the pom poms and were all for it, including Mayor Daley and anyone who did not want to incur his wrath. That was probably a big mistake of his since the opposition to the Olympics in Chicago was as much anti-Daley as it was anti amateur sports festival.
People were upset, and rightly so, about the lack of transparency of the process, about the fee hikes and what they took as the selling of the city (e.g.., the parking meter deal) of Daley to put forth a competitive Olympics bid. People also worried, again, rightly so, about the corruption that just seems to be inherent in this city and how it would manifest itself when it came to hosting the games, building the needed venues, etc. There would likely have been cost overruns, money exchanging hands under the table, deals that would make Salt Lake City look like, well, some sort of holy city, and then there'd be the hassles that regular city residents who wouldn't care either way about the Olympics would have to deal with -- buses and trains that would be even more crowded than normal, migrane-inducing traffic messes, construction projects throughout the metropolitan area, police possibly taken out of the neighborhoods to work at the Olympic sites, etc. And these are all very valid concerns.
Additionally, there are problems in Chicago that need to be fixed instead of throwing an Olympics. Kids and addults aren't safe on the streets or in the schools, the infrastructure is falling apart, the transit system is hobbling along, the schools aren't that great, we're short of a fulll police department by a couple thousand cops, and still, in spite of all that, the mayor and those who worked to bring the Olympics to Chicago deserve a round of applause, if not for the work they did then for at least some of their motives.
This is quite an accomplishment by Daley, to elicit sympathy for him, since he can be altrenately petulant and a bully, especially when he gets all red-faced and shouts at critics or anyone who dares question what he's doing. He loves to try to embarass or scapegoat the media, a favorite whipping dog of his, merely for sking basic questions. But he was right when he asked critics of the plan to get the Olympics, how else they'd make infrastructure improvements, how they get millions and millions of federal dollars, how they'd get tourists to the city from around the globe in the nidst of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
The anti-Olympics crowd made it easier for me to feel some sense of loss when Chicago was quickly knocked out of the running for the Olympics, since they were like a Tea Party bunch -- shouting, screaming, hating, wishing for someone to fail --yet offering no solutions themselves to the many obbbstacles and challenges the city faces. Sure, Daley may have wanted the Olympics as a "legacy" project, and others may have wanted it just so they'd make money off it, but at least he tried. At least they tried. At least those who worked to get the Olympics in Chicago were working for something. What have the "anti" crowd done to the benefit of Chicago?
Yes, there would have been corruption and out of control costs and headaches for the citizens if the city of Chicago had won the 2016 Olympic bid. But things would have gotten built, people would have been put to work, the economic engine would have been humming, the namee "Chicago" would have been on the lips of people across the globe, and man, it could have been one hell of a party.