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October 3, 2009

Chicago Losing the Olympics - Good or Bad?

Personally, I think it's a good thing, and that's because I love Chicago.

First of all, this appears to have been a Richard Daley maneuver all the way, with lots of cronies buying up property either where Olympic buildings would end up going or near them, anyway.  It's just more kickbacks for a political structure that's been poisoned for generations and will remain that way until somebody does something about it.  There's a reason they call it "The Chicago Way." Incidentally, does Chicago hold the record for most aldermen indicted?  I'm sure they're up there.

Secondly, since Vancouver has the 2010 Winter Games coming up this next year, I'm very familiar with how this stuff works.  Cost overruns are the main problem, but I wouldn't be surprised if corruption doesn't sneak in as well.  We have buildings that may never serve any purpose again after the Games are over being specially made with our tax dollars.  Supposedly, many of the buildings in Beijing that everybody was ooohing and aaahhhing over during the 2008 Summer Games are now sitting idle, tourist attractions and that's about it. How many of these special construction projects going on in Vancouver right now will have any use once the Games are over?  Who can tell?

There has been some slight benefit, however.  Because of the Games, they did have to renovate the Sea-to-Sky highway going from Vancouver to Whistler, because there was no way that piece of crap road could support the number of people who would be going to see the skiing events.  I haven't driven it recently (I don't even know if the construction is done, but it had better be), but it has to be a lot better (not to mention safer).

But the occasional good result doesn't make up for the rest of it.  I heard one pundit say that the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 ended up making $78 million.  I have no idea if that number is accurate, but I do know that even if it is, the fact that it's a pre-9/11 Olympics has something to do with it.  Do you know how much Vancouver is supposed to spend on security for next year's games?  $4 billion.  And that's just the last number I heard.  It could be more by now.

Personally, I wouldn't wish the headaches, graft, financial burdens, not to mention the inevitable traffic jams and inconvenience for two weeks (in addition to all the construction hassles which have impeded us for years) on a city I hated, much less loved.

Yes, we are going to some of the hockey games, and we will probably have a good time.  But that's because, since they are going to be here anyway, we want the Games to be as good as they can be, and as successful.  We don't want Vancouver to be on the hook for billions of dollars of losses.  That's why I don't understand these people who are protesting the Games now, trying to make them be a failure.  What purpose does that serve?  But when Vancouver was trying to get the Games?  We were against it all the way.

One political point I have to make is that I think this loss really tarnishes Obama's reputation.  It's been said that presidents and heads of state should not risk their political capital on things that aren't a certainty.  Many people figured that Obama making the trip to Copenhagen in the first place meant that it had been hinted to them that Chicago was going to win.  Thus, the shock when they got knocked out in the first round.  Diplomats and other staffers are the ones who are supposed to do the spade work in these things.  Presidents should only show up to soak up the glory.

Obama apparently hasn't learned yet that his charm and charisma only go so far, and he can't charm everybody into doing what he wants.  Whether it's his earlier European tour or this trip for the Olympics, he's discovered that the Europeans really love him.  They just don't love him enough to actually do anything for him.

But ultimately, I think Obama's (and Daley's) loss will be Chicago's gain.


  1. I kind of have mixed feelings; I can't imagine what the traffic mess would have been (any time I have to drive through Chicago for any reason I just cringe as it is), but on the other hand... I kind of wanted it to be there because it would be so close to Minnesota. I obviously am not going to try to go to Rio (barring some kind of fantastic money inheritance), so now I don't have to decide to go or not go. I'll just watch it on the tv and not fight crowds or worry about parking.

    I do envy your experience in Vancouver a bit, though; as much of a potential cost you take, there is potential gain... plus you'll probably enjoy the events you go to!

    As for Obama - like any President, he wins some, he loses some. I always think any President is lucky if they end their Presidencies without the highs and lows that the last guy had. Compared to all that... this seems kind of minor.

  2. (Total sidebar: I just realized I unconsciously used "he" in that last paragraph... but I think it still works well, considering we've never had a female US President. I've no doubt we will, within my lifetime. But I just wanted to note that I wasn't meaning to denote "he" as a permanent thing, more as a historical thing. I'm sure you were very worried about that, lol.)

  3. Were you aware there's a bid for Chicago to host the 70th World Science Fiction Convention in 2012? Maybe that will help make up for it.

    Of course, there are a few of us at Silicon who are talking about opposing it with a bid for Rio.

  4. Sara: Yes, this is kind of minor, but it's just another example of Obama thinking that he can do more than he actually can. It's more of a sign than anything else.

    And I wasn't reading anything into your "he" for the president, so don't worry. :)

    I'm sure we will enjoy the hockey games we go to, but I still think that ultimately it won't be worth what we've already gone through plus what's still to come. I still think they are an economic boondoggle.

  5. Adrienne: Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

    I wasn't aware of the bid for the World Science Fiction Convention. When will the decision be made? That would definitely make up for it.

    Rio would definitely be good for that too, but I'll bet more people can afford to go to Chicago. :)

  6. I won't be worried about any President doing more than they should until they take a really idiotic notion into their heads, like going to nursing school. (I guess medical school would be even worse!)


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