Chicago cannot get a break. First the city lost its bid for the 2016 Olympics. Now, Chicago lost its bid to host the 2014 X Games. The X Games is a global extreme sports event held by ESPN. The games have been hosted in Los Angeles over the past ten years. ESPN chose Austin Texas to host the games in the Circuit of the Americas over the next four years. “The fantastic COTA facility provide(s) a unique opportunity to grow the X Games in a new region of the country and in a city that has a proven track record of embracing big events.” (Chicago Tribune)
Chicago proposed holding the games in the United Center and surrounding parking lots. According to the Chicago Tribune, the games could have brought $50 million dollars to the city. The Chicago Sports Commission led the effort to snare the X Games. The Chicago Sports Commission is part of Choose Chicago, the private public partnership formed to market Chicago. Their mission is to bring national and international business and leisure events and visitors to Chicago.
What seems to be the problem here? Chicago is a global city. It is an international world class city. Chicago has a proven track record of holding and embracing major events. Chicago held two World Fairs at times when it should have passed. Both were marvels of their respective centuries. Both put Chicago on the global map. Both brought major benefits to the city and the world at large. There is not one major event Chicago cannot embrace and hold.
Chicago is a sports town. The people of Chicago love sports, all kinds of sports. Does Austin have cricket teams? We do. Does Austin have any professional sports teams besides line dancers? Then there is the Austin motto, "Keep Austin Weird". Maybe weird is what is needed to embrace a major event these days.
There is more to do in Chicago in one day than there is to do in Austin in a decade. Maybe that is the problem. There is so much to do the extreme athletes and their handlers will get distracted.
Chicago has amenities no other city can even come close to. Business and leisure visitors to Chicago are in the deca-millions, making our city a premier travel destination.
Chicago and the surrounding area has venues that can host just about anything. Whatever we do not have, we can build. That is what we do in Chicago. We innovate, improvise, and build to suit. Chicago mastered the art of public private partnerships. The city's private partners could and would have assisted in defraying the costs, projected at $20 million dollars. They would probably partner in whatever additional financial incentives were needed.
Chicago is the city of Big Shoulders with an I can, I will spirit. There is nothing Chicago cannot do. There are things Chicago can do that no other city in the world can or will do. So, what is the problem here?
The refusal was couched in clever polite terms, just as the failed Olympic bid. It would be nice to know the real reasons. Aside from the venue and its music scene, what does Austin have that Chicago does not, cannot, or will not provide?
It is time to step up to the plate folks. The mayor and his private partners cannot do the heavy lifting alone. We need a Chicago citizen movement to garner major events to our city. We need the people to market Chicago. While all the entertainment, festivals, and other leisure distractions are nice, Chicago needs a major shot in the arm. We need a major event to prove that we are the best.
Chicago cannot merely rely on the politicians and their corporate partners to do all the work. As citizens, we have a civic responsibility to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. We should be promoting Chicago as hard as our leadership.
It is a pity we lost the Olympics to a poverty stricken backwater like Rio de Janiero and now four years of the X Games to a drought prone cow town like Austin.
Chicago needs to do more. We can. We will.
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