Saturday, September 02, 2006

REACT: No Olympic Gold Medal for Chicago

This is one of those situations where I may have to eat my words, but I will take that risk. Here goes.

There is no way ... nada ... that Chicago will be selected to host the 2016 Olympics. The current "effort" is little more than a well understood charade to stoke a bit of civic pride and divert attention from the increasing ominous clouds of scandal that are gathering over City Hall.

Why no Olympics for Chicago?

First and foremost, the city will not, and cannot, afford it. The mayor's budget is developing more shortfalls in revenue against heightened expenditures. This trend will only get worse in the future. Chicago does not have the facilities for the many Olympic venues. New monstrously expensive arenas will be needed -- including a domed stadium.

(Should I be so rude as to remind the geniuses at City Hall that they approved an open-air renovation of Soldiers' Field? Stupidity tends to catch up with people. And not to mention the monstrosity that Chicago’s icon stadium has become.)

After the cost overruns and financial fiasco that beset Millennium Park, the business community is not likely to write blank checks to underwrite the Olympic project. A few shekels in support of the mayor's public relations is one thing. Tens of millions for actually implementing the plan is quite another.

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is not even sure they will nominate Chicago to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). USOC President Peter Ueberroth has already offered a chilly shoulder in his assessment of Chicago’s bid.

Despite the prestige of the Chicago Olympic booster committee, they have produced an amateurish plan lacking in essential details -- such as just how and where they plan to build the venues. Ueberroth said the Chicago plan would need significant alterations and improvements to even come under serious consideration. The plan did nothing to convince the USOC or the IOC that Chicago even comprehends the task, much less has the human resource skill sets to accomplish it.

Another major factor is stability. The international folks are fully aware that Chicago's leadership is corrupt, and that the future of the mayor is in doubt. Unlike cities that experience leadership transitions as a matter of form, dictatorships tend to fall into chaos when the strongman falls. At the peak of his power, Mayor Daley may have had an outside chance to pull it off. Today, however, the mayor is losing his grip on the reigns of power -- and may eventually have them wrested from his fingers by more than public opinion. In any event, it is not likely Daley will be at the helm of city government ten years from now, but he could be “da mare” for a good portion of the critical planning period. The prospect of some significant level of political instability between now and 2016 is more “when” than “if.”

Finally, Chicago is just not good at attracting top-level world events. The gay games and the restaurant shows are one thing, but an Olympic hosting is quite another. To see the future of this project, you need only review the history of Chicago's most recent bid for Worlds Fair.

Undoubtedly, the work of Daley's Olympic booster committee will create news releases and social events for the months ahead. The press will trumpet every turn of events and announcements. But as the Bard of Avon put it, it is "much ado about nothing."

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