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Olympics in the Chicago Rear View Mirror
Suddenly, they are over . . . the twenty four hour TV coverage on a handful of stations, Spanish language commentators excitedly providing color commentary on Soccer (football), Polish cable access explanations of weight lifting and wrestling events, carefully produced NBC human interest stories on the athletes and colorful tours of the British venues. Just as I began thinking I might be tired of watching Rhythmic Gymnastics or Hammer Throwing the games are over and I realize I kind of miss them. There are always the On Demand items left on Comcast, but it is not the same.
I read an editorial in Crain’s this week in which the writer maintained that although seeing Chicago decked out in Olympic finery would have been nice, it is certain that we have dodged a bullet by losing the 2016 Olympic bid. Once all the accounting is finished will London be ahead or behind economically after hosting the games? All the natives and typical summer visitors stayed away in droves to avoid the hoards of Olympian visitors and athletes. Surely there are some two week statistics that will show a drop in neighborhood traffic, local sales supplanted by the event venues.
I bet that is true. The editorial pointed to the deserted streets during the NATO Summit for the weekend that security was tight for the event. But once the Summit was over all returned to normal and there WERE visitors who stayed and ate in restaurants, explored Millennium Park, and returned to their homes with wonderful memories and stories of our spectacular city.
I know that we are not going to host the Olympics in 2016, and as a business owner in the River North area my demographic would dictate that I should be thrilled – no costly security, no traffic disruptions, no over-crowding and business disruption. But I am not convinced that we dodged a bullet. I am REALLY SORRY that we cannot host the Olympics.
I am sorry that we will not have the timely imperative to invest in our city’s infrastructure to bring it up to the level needed to host the games. Developing the areas designated for the Olympic Village, building permanent structures that would have enhanced our communities, being challenged to use sustainable methods to develop short-term facilities – I see these are great incentives. Politics would have had to expand to embrace the challenges, and I think that it would have elevated the conversation – faced with the inexorable march of time we would have HAD to meet the challenge. And I have no doubt that we would be able to achieve the greatness that the Olympic Proposal Committee presented to the world.
I know that we will continue to strive for greatness without the prod of the IOC, but I (for one) wish that we were in Rio’s shoes today – making plans for 2016 with the confidence that we would be ready to welcome the world in grand style!