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No Games Chicago Update
68 Days To Decision
Daily News

July 25, 2009
Dear Member of the International Olympic Committee:
Today's update comes from NBC News Chicago's online service. We continue to share with you coverage of the community meetings being staged by the Chicago 2016 Committee.

Chicago's Backwards Olympic Bid Public invited in - sort of - at end

By  STEVE RHODES - July 24, 2009

No Games Chicago "Book of Evidence"
Now that the city is just a few months away from finding out if it will be awarded the 2016 Olympics, an actual real debate has erupt among taxpayers about whether they actually, really want it.

Isn't this backwards?

Yes, but if City Hall and local Olympic officials had their way, they would have made it all the way to October without having to include taxpayers who will foot the bill in their plans.

"In a more perfect democracy, the campaign to host the 2016 Olympic Games would have been the subject of intense public scrutiny from the moment Mayor Daley proposed it three years ago," Ben Joravsky writes in the Reader.

"The financial projections would've been scrutinized by independent-minded aldermen and their whiz-kid staffers. There would've been public hearings where ordinary citizens would get to question Daley's Olympic planners. There might even have been a referendum, carefully worded to let people know exactly what they were getting into - something along the lines of 'This could cost us all a ton of money. Do you still want it?'

"And if the answer were yes, we'd have moved on to try to win the International Olympic Committee's approval.
"But what Chicago has is not an ideal democracy. So here we are three years later, heatedly pursuing Mayor Daley's Olympic dream whether we want to or not."

In fact, the only reason why the public is suddenly engaged in debate - and why at least some portions of the mainstream media have belatedly awoken to the fact that all is not what local Olympic officials make it seem - is that what the mayor told the International Olympic Committee behind closed doors somehow made its way back to Chicago and confirmed what critics have said all along: the city is handing the IOC a blank check.

Even Fran Spielman of the Sun-Times, which has been one of the main Daley water-carriers for the Games bid, was moved this week to note that "Newspaper editorials have been overwhelmingly supportive of the city's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Some of the television coverage has been so gung-ho, reporters sounded like cheerleaders."

The Tribune's John Kass, who unsurprisingly has been onto the mayor's game from the get-go, nearly alone among mainstream media figures, noted himself this week that "the mayor has accused the news media of not being onboard with his Olympic dreams. Who do you think he was referring to, exactly? The Tribune proudly flew Chicago 2016 flags from Tribune Tower."

The turning of the tide answers the question Joravsky poses this week: "Why is the mayor's A team only now hitting the neighborhoods to pitch Chicagoans on the Olympic bid?"

Because public support is eroding.

"The more people hear about this, the more they oppose it," anti-Olympics activist Tom Tresser said on Chicago Tonight this week.

So the mayor's bid-masters have set out in a series of meetings across the city to change what taxpayers are hearing - these are not meetings being held for the benefit of residents who want to question aspects of the bid or venture their opinion. These meetings are intended to communicate in one direction only.

"These are not hearings," Chicago 2016 operations director Doug Arnot said on Chicago Tonight, "they are public forums where the public has the opportunity to get information."

Oh thank you for the opportunity!

Now shut up and listen! 

"As promised, I had an open mind last night when I went to the Chicago Olympic committee's community meeting at North Park University," Joravsky wrote after attending one of these meetings.

"I listened to Chicago 2016 chairman Patrick Ryan, president Lori Healey, and venue director Doug Arnot make their case for committing untold billions to Mayor Daley's games.

"But sorry - they lost me when they claimed that providing recreational opportunities for underprivileged children in low-income neighborhoods was their primary motivation for staging the games."

The problem Olympic organizers face now is folks leaving these meetings laughing.
Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.