Dear Member of the
International Olympic Committee:
Today's news cycle is all about your 2016 Evaluation Commission's report and how the 2016 Committee is spinning it.
John Kass, the senior columnist for the Chicago Tribune, has an amusing, but very telling, take on the bid backers.
Scratch our backs, we'll 'Back the Bid'
John Kass - Chicago Tribune - September 2, 2009
Pat Ryan, the mayor's tough-minded point man for Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games, paused near my office on the way out of Tribune Tower recently.
poor fellow didn't want to stop. But he had to stop because once I saw
him, I jumped up and ran out into the corridor and all but tackled him.
That's when I dropped the Chicago Way on the guy and named my price for supporting the Olympics.
Pat, guess what? I'm ready to drop my opposition and support Chicago
2016! I'm ready to back the bid," I said, referring to the big "Back
the Bid" promotion Sept. 13, in which such institutions as the Art
Institute and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will offer discounts to help drum up support for the mayor's Games.
"Really? You're in support?" asked the distinguished, white-haired former insurance company magnate. "That's nice."
I don't think he believed me.
I said, shaking Ryan's hand, pumping it up and down as if we'd just
made a deal. "And all I want are the exclusive Gyros/Celtic Corn
contracts, and the exclusive bottled water contracts for every Olympic
venue. I mean, who's really gonna know?"
If you're wondering,
there were witnesses present, including at least one distinguished
member of the Tribune's editorial board, which is an august panel of
specialists in economics, government, politics and foreign affairs,
each with a fine grasp of subtle policy shifts and nuance. (And a
couple of them bring some really tasty baked goods for coffee time.)
Naturally, I am not a member. But I did have Ryan's hand. And I wasn't
"Nice seeing you," Ryan said, trying to escape.
didn't have to tell Ryan this, but there is no Freedom of Information
law mandating reporting requirements on who gets what if the Games come
to Chicago. There's just a promise by Ryan about full disclosure and
another promise that clout will have no place at Mayor Richard Daley's Olympics.
I've never heard of Ryan lying about anything. His promises about disclosure are nice promises.
Olympic disclosure is a subject that my Tribune colleague David Greising
has written about extensively. Promises aren't law. There is no force
of law behind the vows to disclose who gets what so the public can see
who's really getting the Olympic gold.
Such disclosure laws
apply to other agencies, but Illinois is still the most politically
corrupt state in the union. Of the last three governors, two have been
indicted for corruption and one is already in prison. And at City Hall,
there has been conflict after conflict, and promise after promise from
the mayor to stop it. He's been promising an end to conflicts and
cronyism for 20 years.
Yet in a few weeks, the International Olympic Committee
will be deciding whether Chicago or some other town gets the 2016
Games. Billions of dollars will be spent on a two-week sports festival
that will reshape the South and West Sides, erect some fantastically
cool architecture, and, oh, some guys will get really rich.
the rest of us chumbolones in Illinois? We'll most likely end up paying
for it one way or another, as we've paid for every deal, with
ever-increasing taxes and fees. But since the Olympics are wired, why
not get on board?
Just do me a favor. Don't tell anyone about
this, not even my editor. Keep it a secret among you and me and Ryan.
Because without the force of law behind vows of disclosure, nobody
really has to know, do they?
"So I'm ready to back the bid," I
told Ryan. "But don't forget the gyros, the corn, the bottled water
contracts, and then I'm yours."
"Uh-huh," Ryan said.
Chicago gets the 2016 Olympics, there will be about a gazillion
tourists in town, and I plan on feeding them oodles of salty meat and
salty starch. Once they're thirsty enough, I'll sell bottled Chicago
tap water at an outrageous price, and with my monopoly, I'll make a
fortune. If the 2016 Olympic committee keeps my name out of the
newspapers and gives me the salt and water concessions, then I just
might just become a cheerleader.
"Hmm," Ryan said. "Ah." Then
he walked away, looking over his shoulder every few feet to make sure I
wasn't following. My young colleague, Wings, was sighing loudly at his
"What's wrong with you?" I hissed. "Go grab him! You're letting Ryan get away!"
forgot to tell him about my Sangria stands," Wings whispered. "What
about my exclusive 2016 Sangria stands? I want to wet my beak too."
I yelled at Ryan's back: "And Wings wants the exclusive Sangria
contract! Remember, Sangria for Wings. Water and salt for me! We're
He's such a nice fellow, that Mr. Ryan. He didn't
actually promise anything -- perhaps the mayor wants to see if I really
mean it this time -- but at least Ryan didn't say no.
Actually, he didn't say anything.