Dear Member of the
International Olympic Committee:
The 2016 Committee has been taking its case to the neighborhoods of Chicago on an almost daily basis since July 8. As we've been reporting to you, this has been a very bumpy ride. Today, the Chicago Sun-Times gives a fair summary of how the process has unfolded.
Selling the Games, a ward at a time
'16 OLYMPICS | Promoters seeking residents' support and input are getting an earful
August 23, 2009 - LISA DONOVAN firstname.lastname@example.org
As it has at times in recent weeks, a community meeting about
Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics soon veered off into a
heated discussion about other things.
Affordable housing. Jobs. Crime.
An upset Mark Carter, 35, stood in the audience and demanded that
Mayor Daley's Olympic bid team, assembled on the dais, set aside some
of the projected 310,000 jobs -- some temporary, others permanent --
expected to be created by the Olympic Games for North Lawndale
residents. He also asserted that the beleaguered West Side community
wasn't getting the help it needed because "the alderman sold us out."
First-term Ald. Sharon Denise Dixon (24th), standing next to the audience, didn't hold back.
"Shut up," she told Carter, who ran against her in the last election. "I'm an alderman, not a miracle worker."
This week, the Chicago 2016 Olympic organizing committee winds up a
series of community meetings dubbed "50 wards in 50 days" -- a sprint
to sell the Olympics to the public, even as criticism has built this
summer over Daley's surprise announcement that he'll sign the standard
Olympic host-city contract, putting taxpayers on the hook for any
losses if the city ends up hosting the 2016 Games and the city's rosy
financial predictions don't come true.
Chicago is competing to host the Olympics against finalist cities
Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee
will meet Oct. 2 in Copenhagen and announce the winner.
Each city is required to sign the contract -- an open-ended agreement to pay for any losses the Games might incur.
The Olympic bid team's refrain at the community meetings has been
that "not a single tax dollar has been spent on the Games" and that the
$4.8 billion Olympic plan will be bankrolled by private donations.
The bid team has also said the Games here would make money, generating a $450 million surplus.
But so-called "tax-increment financing" dollars will be used in the
planned Olympic Village on the South Side, and the safety net for the
Games includes a state guarantee of $250 million, and a "last-resort"
$500 million in taxpayer money from the City of Chicago.
Olympic organizers say that in the unlikely event the Games end up
losing money, they'd have to burn through millions in privately
purchased insurance before touching public dollars.
Chicago 2016 has organized more than 400 community meetings since 2007, according to a spokesman for the organization.
But these last sessions are particularly crucial, as aldermen gear
up for a vote that would give the mayor the green light to formally
sign the host-city contract.
If history is any predictor, the mayor will get what he wants -- and
he wants the Olympics. But the meetings were organized so city
residents could ask questions and weigh in before the vote.
Chicago 2016 President Lori Healey told the 350 people assembled for
the kick-off meeting at the McKinley Park field house on the Southeast
Side that their support was crucial to winning the Games.
"We can't do it alone," Healey said. "The IOC does not want to give
the Olympic Games to a city whose residents don't want it. We will lose
this race without your support."
Well-versed in "the Chicago way," people attending the meeting
wanted to know what's in it for them. A mother asked whether there
would be money to open a bowling alley in Austin. Another city
resident, who attended the St. Xavier University meeting on the Far
South Side, wanted to know why there was so much fuss about winning the
Summer Olympics when the city's focus should be on stopping the
violence that's ravaging some communities.
Patrick Ryan, Chicago 2016's chief executive officer, answered: "Let
me say that we can't, as the Olympic organizing committee, impact
[social] problems. We all suffer with that emotionally."