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No Games Chicago Update
50 Days To Decision
Daily News

August 12, 2009
The People Speak

My family traveled into the city on July 3 to attend the Taste of Chicago and watch the fireworks.

Upon arrival, they were turned away by Chicago Police who said it wasn't safe and that the event was "closed" due to violence.

My question is this: If Mayor Ricard Daley can't provide for the protection of people attending a regular event like the Taste of Chicago, how does he plan to protect those attending the 2016 Olympics?

Mike Volling, Antioch

Letter to the Editor
Chicago Tribune
July 29, 2009

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Open letter to the IOC:
"Why you don't want to give the Olympics to Chicago"

Dear Member of the International Olympic Committee:  

The 2016 Committee continues to meet with community members. The more they meet, the angrier the community residents get.

Olympic Committee meets a skeptical local community

By Dan Kolen | The Gazette - August 2009

Reaching out to local residents, the Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee visited Marshall High School's auditorium on the West Side on July 14 in a meeting to discuss how the Olympics would affect communities if the City wins the Olympic bid.

The Olympics would provide an indoor track located in Douglass Park on the West Side, an Olympic Village in Bronzeville that would be transformed after the games into housing (around 30% affordable), and a "direct surplus to the City's budget," committee members claimed.

Many people who attended the meeting expressed concern about the Olympics, despite committee members' rosy view. "They didn't answer the questions, plain and simple," said Maurice Robinson. "With the Olympics being here, the issues that are ahead of us - and thereare so many problems already - it's hard to imagine what's going to happen."

Public transit

Concerning public transportation, the committee announced officials would arrange an additional bus system specifically for the people going to the games; no parking would be permitted around the games' sites. Federal aid the City expects to get for transportation would "help immensely" to "permanently improve" the City's transportation infrastructure, according to committee members.

"Both Atlanta and Salt Lake City benefited very significantly from federal transportation projects in their cities, so they would be ready for the games," said Doug Arnot, the committee's director of venues and games operations. "The existing system was improved in time for the games" and had a lasting impact, he noted.

Stephanie Patton, now a Chicago resident, lived in Atlanta in the lead-up to the 1996 games and said Atlanta did see a positive, permanent change in the infrastructure. For example, she noted, express lanes of certain thoroughfares were increased from three to five, although traffic still was massive.

"What happened was, though, during heavy traffic, the people of the city had to learn those back roads" during the games, she said. The 1996 Atlanta Olympics were held in a city growing and expanding, but Chicago is an already built-up city, with public transit plagued by frequent delays, fare hikes, and threats of service cuts. The comments by the committee therefore did not help calm the concerns many residents had about the permanent impact the games would have on public transportation.
"You certainly have your work cut out for you," Lee Ford, a Garfield Park resident, said to Arnot, who expressed a negative view of "the public transportation access and the public transportation system in the City of Chicago."

Public funding

On June 17, Mayor Richard M. Daley signed a contract with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) saying the City will take on full, unlimited financial liability for "planning, organization, and staging" the Olympics. The contract and issues pertaining to funding the games drew criticism from several attendees.

The IOC is "in bed with Mayor Daley." Patton said. "If we get the Olympics, it's going to be a travesty for Chicago. I feel strongly that with Mayor Daley's leadership we're going to have to go deep into our pockets."

The committee members remained adamant that no taxpayer dollars would be used and that the City has not had to pay so far for planning the games. Despite the contract, the City "will not pay a dime for the games," committee members asserted.
"No games since 1972 have lost money; all have turned a surplus," said Lori Healey, president of the committee. "We also have additional insurance protection so we can cover costs on projects."

Huge price tags are associated with many of the proposed structures: Olympic Village would cost $1 billion, a stadium in Washington Park just under $400 million, and the Douglass Park facility that would be converted into a permanent track and field center after the games would cost $37.1 million. The games' total cost is estimated at around $4.8 billion.

To cover such massive costs, the City would receive more than one billion dollars from television rights, with private financiers paying the rest, committee members said.

"No taxpayer dollars are included in the budget," Healey said. "We're 100% privately financed. In fact, we expect to turn a $450 million surplus."

Neighborhood impact

From reduced ticket prices for Chicago residents, to favorable vendor deals for locals, to World Sport Chicago's (WSC) sports program for kids in Chicago, the committee outlined direct, positive effects of the Olympics for the community.

"It's our commitment that World Sport Chicago grows and continues to grow," Arnot said about the program that already has enrolled 30,000 of the 300,000 kids in Chicago Public Schools. The committee showed a short documentary during the meeting to highlight a gymnastics class for WSC. Those attending responded with skepticism about how much the program and committee really wanted to help the city.

"We had never heard of World Sport Chicago until today," Patton said. "And with the games, we're going to be made to feel like guests or prisoners in our own backyards."

Some in attendance voiced support for the games, however.

"I think the Olympics are going to be a great thing for the city," said local resident Walter Fiedler. "The things that are going to happen are already under way, but it is a way for the people to know what is expected and what it's going to mean for us."
Healey said that, with WSC and the new infrastructure, the games will "help us provide something new to the neighborhoods. There will be a lasting impact in the neighborhoods."
She also stressed the importance of the residents' support.

"We need to show that the people of Chicago are passionate about sports, about bringing the games to the city," Healey said. "With your support, we can really transform this city."

Some at the meeting were not keen on lending their support, however. Patton said, "While you're advocating for support for the Olympics, advocate to get our children educated."