email logo
No Games Chicago Update
48 Days To Decision
Daily News

August 14, 2009
The People Speak

Our city does not need the Olympics!!!
#1 Buildings crumbling, city services deteriorating. Our city needs better schools, Public transportation overhaul and city services to help the Chicagoans do to cutbacks. #2 more private sector jobs.. Without the jobs crime has riddled streets/neighborhoods. "NO WORK"!! (NO OLYMPICS)

Kurtis Schmitt

Signer of No Games online petition

Join Our Mailing List
email logo

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

Dear Member of the International Olympic Committee:  

David Greising is the business reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He's been growing skeptical of the 2016 Committee's willingness to be honest with the people of Chicago.

Time to hold 2016 Olympics committee's feet to flame on open records

David Greising - August 14, 2009

"This is a good thing for our bid," Pat Ryan was saying the other night, after Bronzeville neighborhood citizens grilled Olympics officials for nearly three hours about costs and risks of staging a Chicago Olympics.

A root-canal look on his face, Ryan had sat in a hot, crowded South Side meeting room as residents raised concerns about the demolition of historic buildings, travel inconveniences and access to business opportunities that could accompany a 2016 Games.

The Chicago 2016 bid committee has been the most open ever, asserted Ryan, the chairman. The group that would run the Games -- the Chicago Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, or OCOG -- will be open to scrutiny too, Olympics officials have said.

Yet when it comes to opening their own records to public scrutiny, the way all public agencies must, the transparency goes dark.

As a private entity, Chicago 2016 typically would have no obligation to open its records. But because it will get $750 million in state and city financial guarantees -- and wants an unlimited city commitment to cover any major Olympics shortfall -- in exchange it should agree to let taxpayers know how Olympics money will be spent.

Ryan and his second-in-command, Lori Healey, felt no obligation to open the Olympic committee's records. Yet the more they tried to explain their reasoning the less persuasive it became. Ryan asserted that freedom of information requests might make it impossible for Chicago 2016 and the International Olympic Committee to sell sponsorships, the biggest source of money for any Olympics.

"We're going to be having a competition for sponsorships, and I hope that you wouldn't request the information in the FOIA that we reveal what this company is bidding and what that company is bidding," Ryan said.

But Illinois' freedom of information law specifically protects proprietary business information. Bids for sponsorships and other contracts would remain secret.

Healey implied that the bid committee is powerless to bind the actual organizing committee to an open-records commitment.

"It's up to the OCOG," she said.

Healey and virtually everyone else on Chicago 2016 are expected to serve on the Chicago Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, but Healey makes the two groups sound like foreign entities.

"The OCOG is governed by its own board," she said. "They'll have to make decisions on this."

If the bid committee cannot make commitments that bind the OCOG, someone has a lot of explaining to do. The state and city need to know, because this puts their $750 million guarantees at risk. Someone tell the community groups that the fair-contracting agreement hammered out with dozens of community groups may have no effect on how the OCOG operates.

In fact, someone tell the IOC. They need to know if the bid committee's word is not the OCOG's bond.

What Ryan seems not to appreciate is that an open-records policy might help Chicago's bid. Contracting scandals have ruined past Olympics, and Chicago's reputation on such matters is hardly pristine.

When Chicago 2016 goes to Copenhagen for the IOC vote Oct. 2, its bid will be stronger with an open-records commitment.

Now, Ryan is a phenomenally successful insurance executive. He knows a deal breaker when he sees it, and he knows he needs the city's financial guarantee for the Games or there is no Chicago Olympics.

Ryan and Mayor Richard Daley, who want the Olympics so badly, will do about anything to get that guarantee. And that is why -- in exchange for a government guarantee in a city and state with a corruption-riddled track record -- citizens must insist on access to the Olympic committee's records.

This is called negotiating leverage, and taxpayers and citizens, in those rare moments when they have leverage, are fools if they do not use it.

Access to the Olympic committee's records is within the reach of the people who are being asked to guarantee the Games. All the City Council has to do -- at hearings next month -- is ask.