I rejoice at not having the Olympics in the City of Big Shoulders, the Windy City. This is a great moment, in a sense; the moment where a great mistake has been diverted so we can concentrate on the real issues affecting the people of the city of Chicago. A crushing loss, as some say? A loss for President Barack Obama? Not really.
It’s a sad moment for people with “skin in the game” or “stakes in the pig” (to coin my own term) – the developers, hoteliers, US athletes, construction workers. Those are people who would have been at the center of the projects, tearing down old housing, building new venues, sprucing up lands, designing and creating transportation projects, and fixing a physical, electrical, and environmental infrastructure that could use some updating.
The Some politicians would have burnished their reputations with the Olympics; others would do the public-private employment shuffle and make some bank from both sides of the deals, a practice that is most certainly not a province of any one party (see: defense and security contractors like Rudy Giuliani and Dick Cheney, or anyone in Daley’s machine).
The Olympics – and any large project – fosters a climate of handshake deals outside of the public eye, and cost overruns that become apparent halfway through the project. You’re going to go for the contractor who gives the most logical presentation with the lowest price and the best expertise at that price level. But those are hopeful estimates. They almost always are.
Win or lose, of course, the internet comment trolls come out in force to blame Obama. There are companies that do hire people to simply “make money from their couches” and post with different IDs on the web – it’s spamming comments.
But this is not a loss for Obama. He did his best, like any other president would do. No politician comes out against the Olympics; and he put his time where his mouth was. Kudos to President Obama for going to Copenhagen. The decision to knock Chicago out of the contention early speaks more to a dislike of the United States and a turmoil within the country.
Which speaks to why that turmoil is to the nation’s benefit, and Chicago’s benefit.
I confess; I don’t know what they’re doing to prepare for London’s games in 3 years. But we know that Athens ran hard against deadlines to create venues. We know China was trying to change their atmosphere (to remove rainy/ cloudy days) and likely displacing people.
To prepare Chicago, Mayor Daley would have needed to remove a number of poor communities from the south side, relocating them outside of the county, or far west within the city. There would have been cost overruns, as previously stated, cutbacks on services for current residents, the creation of structures at a high cost (in a time of fluctuating value) that will NOT be used after the Olympic event. It’s the kind of production that loves a blowhard that promises big things and scrambles to deliver. It’s the kind of production that would be better served by a more lax news media, easily-manipulated fiscal policy, and disenfranchised/ easy to move residents.
Pity the Cariocas (Rio residents) in the favelas. Many of them – I am betting near Copacabana and Ipanema – will find themselves relocated to new homes, violently dispatched, or simply bulldozed. Rio will want to crack down on crime and the visual blight. And the costs of building in Rio will require the destruction of inhabited areas. It could be a great coming out party for the Cidade Maravilhosa (marvelous city), but will likely come at a social cost.
In Chicago, the news and other media would be licking their lips at the sound of “overrun” or “delays”; I would rather pass that hassle on to another city. Chicago is already fantastic, a great draw for US tourists and worldwide. Chicago is already a hub for business, the arts, and more. We don’t need a coming out party.