Why I support Chicago's Olympics bid

I support Chicago’s efforts to win the right to host the 2016 Olympic Games.


OK, if you’re done throwing virtual shoes and hurling various insults my way, let me explain why.

chicago olympics.jpg

It’s actually pretty simple. I like the idea of this international
sporting event happening in my backyard. And I want to see as many
events as I can afford.

The city of Chicago will really shine as a beautiful international
visitor spot. And the infrastructure that will be left behind will
serve our citizens for many years to come.

I don’t always trust Mayor Daley, but I do believe him when he says the
citizens of Chicago won’t have to pay one dime of any potential cost
overruns, because I don’t think there will be any. (Ducking again.)

Finally, winning the Games can only help the CTA get more federal dollars to expand and repair rail lines.

So, good luck to the mayor and the Chicago Olympics team on the vote in Copenhagen Friday.

Buses detoured for bid live viewing event. The CTA is rerouting buses around Daley Plaza starting at 8 pm tonight through 4 pm Friday due to the Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid Live Viewing event
Plaza. The southbound #22 Clark and #24 Wentworth will travel over their regular routes along
Clark to
Randolph then will operate via Randolph, LaSalle, Monroe to
Clark and then resume their regular routes. Northbound #22 and #24 buses are not affected and will travel over their regular routes.


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  • It's fine to support the Olympics, but that gives you a responsibility to help make sure it doesn't run roughshod over the current residents of the South and West Sides. The real danger is not cost overruns or corruption - we'll have those either way. The threat is that Olympics-fueled gentrification will clear these neighborhoods of their residents, forcing them into new concentrations of poverty - along with all the problems that creates - so that well-off people can have another neighborhood near the Loop all to themselves.

    If we get the Olympics it will be a huge opportunity to renew neighborhoods that right now are nearly unlivable. But that's only going to happen if the terms of the Community Benefits Agreement are respected (which will take a fight) and if an agreement on minimum levels of affordable housing in the affected neighborhoods can be reached (another fight). The best thing Olympic supporters and opponents can do if we get the Olympics is to join those of us working on these issues in the fight, because Daley's not going to do it of his own accord.

  • My main transit point is that for 5 years people have been reciting the mantra that if we get the Olympics, transit funds will suddenly appear. Nobody has said from where. While stimulus funds were also unexpected, they've also nearly been exhausted, as far as CTA is concerned. Is Congress really going to pony up an earmark for Chicago of the $5 billion shortfall CTA always claims in its capital budget, at the expense of the rest of the country, just so CTA can renovate its 4th world rapid transit system?

    CTA has back end options for 500 hybrid articulated buses, exercisable about 2013, presumably for the Olympics. If CTA can't fund the $120 million for the first 140, where is it going to get the $400-600 million (considering the cost of living index factor) for those? And if CTA gets those buses, where is it going to garage them, and what will it do with them after the Olympics? Finally, considering that NY MTA is testing DesignLine buses, which are claimed to use 40% of the fuel of the type of hybrids the CTA is buying, has CTA banked on technology that will be obsolete by 2016?

    Is Daley really going to become a Metra advocate and finally get Mike Payne's Gray Line (or the similar Gold Line) off the schneid? Especially since he doesn't control Metra? I also have a long shot at Arlington.

    For the political points:
    1. I don't know about jake's point about gentrifying the Douglas Park area, and while the area east of Washington Park is certainly gentrified (we know who lives there), that west of Washington Park is a wasteland. I commented earlier that who would want to walk from the 51st St. Green Line station to the Olympic Stadium, unless there is a redevelopment plan, instituted fairly quickly. The only thing I have heard is that the U of C is landbanking around Garfield Blvd.

    2. People who live in Chicago apparently voted for Daley, but those of us outside did not. It is your problem if city taxpayers get stuck for the unlimited bill (after all, the city council, with such icons as Burke, Mell, and Stone, authorized the deal and promised "oversight"), but if Daley treats this like the CTA and Schools, and says "while I control it, it is for the benefit of the rest of you, and the whole state should pay," forget it. My philosophy is that if the IOC asked for an unlimited guaranty, there is a reason.

    3. Finally, there is the question raised by Dennis Byrne in his Chicago Now blog about what happens if the games go elsewhere. Will the corporate philanthropists hang around the fix the school system? (I see that another student was beaten last night.) Putting it on the CTA level, I haven't seen an Aon, AT&T, or U.S. Cellular station renovation in return for naming rights, nor any business come up to the plate and say that the Block 37-Airport Express is an idea in which it wants to invest. However, as KevinB points out, the taxpayers have been suckered into some portion of a quarter billion dollars for a hole under the mall and the closure of Washington station. To come full circle, if there is Olympic money, do you want it spent in that manner??? By probably the eight or ninth CTA President appointed by Daley, who has to apologize for, but not fix, the errors of the prior seven?

  • I'm against it because:

    1.I'm not a fan. I don't care where they're being presented, I don't watch the Olympics on tv and I wouldn't pay to see any of it live. It just doesn't interest me. Neither do most organized sports.

    2.It will cost the resident of Chicago money. Both Worlds Fairs here ended in the red, as has most if not all Olympics for the last 30-40 years. We can't afford this.

    3.I don't see hosting them will improve transit, permanent employment, schools, or the neighborhoods that will be used as venues for the games. We have a lot of serious problems now that can't be fixed with the money we have. Throwing money at the Games is idiotic.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Actually, the 33 World's Fair made enough money that they brought it back in 34. It is also attributed with propping up the streetcar companies. Remember, that was during the depression.

    However, I agree that throwing money at a two week event isn't going to result in the type of economic activity the two year World's Fair did. It doesn't appear that the Olympics did much to improve Athens in a permanent manner.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Cheryl said: "Both Worlds Fairs here ended in the red, as has most if not all Olympics for the last 30-40 years. We can't afford this."

    Stats readily available on the Internet show that the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles made $250 million in profits and the 1996 Atlanta games made $10 million in profits. Outside the U.S., the Seoul games made $300 million in 1988 and the Barcelona games $5 million in 1992. The Columbian Exposition made $1 million in profits--the only world's fair in the 19th Century to even break even--and the 1933 Chicago world's fair ended debt free.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Whooops, I thought LA games were in 1976, not 1984. No matter. Those numbers are often repeated, but false. Those profits are not counting real expenses or taxes used to fund the Games that could be used for better purposes. If it were truly profitable, they wouldn't need to spend my tax money.

    When you get down to it, the Olympics is all about real estate, which is why Daley wants it. It will improve the South Side he and his father have been wanting to do for 50 years. The Olympics is just a cover. And it will be sure to make some influential Chicagoans very rich in the process. It's the Chicago Way.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    By the way, the money you hear that they make are only during the "operating period" of the Olympics, ie. 2 weeks. Those figures don't count all the infrastructure costs leading up to the games. Don't be fooled.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    I really think that all this talk about the supposed profits/losses of previous World's Fairs and Olympics is a case of lies, damned lies, and statistics. It is obvious to me that the statistics for events like these can be manipulated to show profit/loss depending upon the agenda of the one providing the statistics.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    As far as seeing the games. It was told on the radio last weekend (890 AM) that many ticket prices will be under $50 and some will even be free. Events help in the parks like rowing events will be free to observers. And your ticket price includes a CTA pass to get you around the city. Yeah, it may be rowing and archery but that is expected. Obviously the opening and closing ceremonies, basketball, and gymnastics will be much more expensive. Yet, it isn't necessarily about the actual events themselves, it is about the spirit and atmosphere of the events. Just to have the chance to experience that would be an experience for a lifetime.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    The Olympics will reduce crime.Security during the actual Olympics is paid for by the Federal government.Low crime rates will increase property values[and tax revenue],jobs,new residents and tourists.
    Gentrification can be slowed by rent control,property tax assesssment freezes&loans or grants for home improvement [so building inspectors can't be used to drive out original residents by nickel and dime infraction citations].

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Since this is Daley's pet project,TIF money can be used for C.T,A, improvements.As for excess buses,they are valuable and be resold.Use the time you spend thinking up how the Olympics will fail,to find ways so they don't fail.It may save you lots of money.

  • In reply to JamesReyes:

    Your idea of rent control is only favored in NYC and Cambridge Mass., and it is questionable whether it works in those places. Also, you tell me where there is a market for $800,000 to $1 million each for used CTA buses, built to probably an obsolete specification. After the feds pull their police once the paraolympians leave, who'll pay for keeping the peace then? And currently, TIF money ca be used for CTA projects, but other than the Block 37 hole, Daley hasn't shown an inclination to do so (it was reported that TIF money would be used for the Morgan station, but he recently said that federal money was better).

    The only thing in past history that comes close is that before the Atlanta games, the FTA directed that some new buses be diverted by New Flyer to Atlanta, and then delivered to the ultimate customers.

  • In reply to JamesReyes:

    TIF money can only be used in areas where it came from. For instance, the Wilson Yard TIF came from the surrounding area, not the entire pool of TIF money in Chicago.

    You are admitting that it could fail and could cost me lots of money, which is exactly my point.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    "I don't always trust Mayor Daley, but I do believe him when he says the citizens of Chicago won't have to pay one dime of any potential cost overruns, because I don't think there will be any. (Ducking again.)"

    So how did Millennium Park work out for you? And the parking meter deal? Howz about Millennium Park Garage where prices went from $11 to as much as $30--it was supposed to pay for MP. Howz about events are canceled in the parks because money is going to MP and Olympics? Money will be funneled to Olympics that should be going to the neighborhood parks. Upcoming: sale of Midway and O'Hare.

    Trust Daley? Truly you jest.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Guess what? The demo Ritchie said wouldn't start yet has started.


    I wouldn't be so against the whole boondoggle if it wasn't for all the lying.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Thanks for that link. I didn't realize they could start that without the actual. Olympic bid. As I said before, it's all about real estate.

  • In reply to chris:

    They weren't supposed to start. And for everyone who says Chicago hasn't spent a dime yet, well, the city bought the Michael Reese property for 80 something million dollars. I'd like to see them sell it for at least that much now.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    They'll be able to sell it at some point, but maybe not before payments are due. I think it could turn out to be a good investment.

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    Several of the "temporary" venues (such as swimming pools) will be disbursed to other area parks that are in need after the games have gone. At lease that is the plan.

  • In reply to Torchboy:

    What are they going to use--blow up wading pools with rubber duckies?

  • In reply to Torchboy:

    Ozlock wrote: "So how did Millennium Park work out for you?"

    Millennium Park is not a good example of a cost "overrun," Oz, because the project changed dramatically after it was first announced. Originally, it was to be a rather generic park, about one-third smaller, built on a bridgedeck over a rail yard. Then, private donors came up with the idea and money for its major attractions: "The Bean," the Crown Fountain (the one with the faces on it), the Gehry bandshell and its sound system, etc. Yes, this added time and money to the project and there had to be some backtracking to shore up the foundation for the extra weight, but most of the extra funds were privately donated and the result is a spectacular, world-class park that has become one of Chicago's most popular attractions. It is an example of great success, not a cautionary tale. If private donations exceed expectations and Chicago can enlarge its olympic plans at no cost to local taxpayers, I don't think anyone would mind.

  • In reply to Joe001:

    That is a big IF.

    You don't think the Olympics will have dramatic changes to its plan between now and 2016?

  • In reply to Joe001:

    From what I just heard on Waddle & Silvy...It's over, Chicago eliminated in the first round.

    Hence, my concerns are moot, but then where is the supposed $5 billion in transit capital money supposed to come now?

  • In reply to Joe001:

    Well, this whole discussion is pointless now. The games aren't coming.

  • In reply to Torchboy:

    Also, while I'm not an expert on the ongoing (post-completion)finances of Millennium Park, I did note the following in a Sept. 18 Sun-Times article about the new field house at Jesse Owens Park on the South Side:

    "It was funded by $3.5 million from the state, $3.2 million from the city and $3 million from the 99-year lease that privatized the Chicago Park District

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    The above was said by a director of the Park District.

  • Kevin,

    I have a few questions about your post...

    1) What infrastructure do you think is going to be left behind? I thought most stuff was temporary, except for the athlete housing, which they are tearing down architectural landmarks to build...

    2) If you don't think Chicago citizens will be on the hook for cost overruns, who do you think will ante up? You are aware that since 1976, every Olympics has lost money right?

    3) What makes you think as a Chicagoan you will be attend any games, much less "as many as you can afford?" A regular person can't barely get Bears tickets, much less games that the entire world will want to come see. Sadly, I expect ticket brokers to ruin this for most Chicagoans that want to see the game unless they put in some special system for locals to get tickets.

    However, I do share you optimism of the WOW factor that having the Olympics will bring, but I'm just hesitant because I know how horribly wrong all this could be go.

  • This is a transit, and not political forum, but the first step is to get rid of the political establishment that is like an ingrown toenail. Nothing is going to be accomplished until, at a minimum, the mayor, city council, and most of county government are replaced, and at least the impression is not given that only insiders would have profited from the Olympic deals. Also, as CTA proves, you don't accomplish much by recycling people like Rodriguez and Peterson (and the Sun-Times reports today that Huberman and one of his aides are escaping disciplinary action for a contract scandal at the 911 center because they "no longer work for the city"). Similarly, what about the quarter billion already spent for an airport express that won't be needed to bring the masses from O'Hare to the Olympic venues?

    While Daley did something to beautify the downtown, he basically patronized the south side. I don't know what is needed to stop the gang wars, wars among high school students, shooting up of CTA buses (there's a transit connection), and vacant properties all over the south side, but there won't be any economic development there until those problems that are driving out business and law-abiding people are controlled. Apparently things are no better in some parts of the north side, where there was a student beating at Devon & Paulina--2 blocks from the police station.

    Subject to the preceding paragraph, an economic development program is required, which would encourage business to locate to the city. A federal judge told Ald. Reilly that federal law prevents him from using zoning to affect labor relations; someone should tell the same to Alds. Burke and Mell regarding Walmart. Do something to encourage tax generators into the city, instead of moving them into the collar counties. That would help the CTA's tax collections, too.

    However, as I mentioned when Kevin posted the subject of suggestions for Rodriguez--Daley, Rodriguez, Kruesi, et al. think they know it all and won't listen to us anyway. Hence, it is futile to take your suggestion that "those of us who did not back the bid should be coming up with ideas on how to bring about positive change without relying on outside help." Until what I mention in paragraph one is accomplished, the rest is futile.

  • Daley and Ryan talked a good game about having all this private money already available for the Olympics--how about asking the donors if we can keep the money and use it for transit and the schools?

  • In reply to Cheryl:

    a private donor giving some money to help CPS cover its union overhead? Never.

  • In reply to stephenw235:

    Why not?

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