Dear Member of the
International Olympic Committee:
It's hard to overstate the importance of today's Update to you. The Chicago Tribune conducted a poll to measure public support for the bid. Chicago citizens overwhelmingly reject the notion of hosting and paying for the 2016 Olympics. 84% DO NOT WANT TAX DOLLARS TO PAY FOR THE GAMES.
TRIBUNE/ WGN POLL
Olympic opposition getting second wind as support in Chicago fades
47 percent of
Chicagoans polled favor the bid, but that support had been at 61 percent in
By Todd Lighty and Kathy Bergen - September 3, 2009
Support in Chicago
for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games has dwindled, with residents now sharply
divided over whether the city should host the Games, a Tribune/WGN poll has
Nearly as many city residents oppose Mayor Richard
Daley's Olympic plans, 45 percent, as support them, 47 percent. And residents
increasingly and overwhelmingly oppose using tax dollars to cover any financial
shortfalls for the Games, with 84 percent disapproving of the use of public
The poll comes a month before the International Olympic Committee selects the
host city for the 2016 Olympics. Chicago is
competing against Tokyo, Madrid
and Rio de Janeiro.
The new results show slippage from the 2-to-1 support found in a Tribune poll
in February, and experts said the findings could hurt Chicago's chances.
"When less than half of the folks polled indicate they'd be willing to
support the Olympics, that's certainly not an enthusiastic mandate for bringing
the Games to Chicago," said sports finance
expert Dennis Howard of the University
of Oregon. "I can't
speak for the IOC members who will be making the decision, but I'd be fairly
certain this would not help the cause for Chicago."
Patrick Ryan, who is leading the Chicago 2016 bid committee, declined to
comment Wednesday about the poll results. But this morning, the committee
issued a statement saying the poll was taken at a time when some taxpayers had
lingering questions about whether they would be protected in the event of
"In the days since this poll was conducted, those questions have been
answered and those concerns have been alleviated," said the committee's
spokesman, Patrick Sandusky.
that the Civic Federation and the IOC issued reports stating that Chicago
2016's plan was financially responsible and posed "minimal risk to
taxpayers." He added that aldermen have given the committee "high
marks" for its plan.
said, polling is only one way to evaluate community sentiment. He said the
committee has raised $70 million in private donations and that more than 20,000
volunteers support the bid.
The telephone survey of 380 Chicago
registered voters, conducted Aug. 27 through Monday by Market
Shares Corp., has a margin of error of 5 percentage points.
The Tribune/WGN poll is the first measure of public sentiment since Daley did
an about-face in June, saying he would sign the standard host city contract
giving the city full financial responsibility for any losses -- a move that
triggered a firestorm of criticism. Until then, the city had been lobbying for
amendments to the contract that would recognize the city's limited guarantees.
Poll respondents made it abundantly clear that they disapprove of Daley's
promise of an unlimited guarantee in the event the Games lose money, with 75
In a city already upset over the privatization of parking meters and worried
about further cutbacks in government services, those respondents who talked to
reporters expressed concerns about the economy, the cost of hosting the Games
and traffic congestion.
Even a majority of those who favor the Olympics opposed using taxes to cover
losses and were against the unlimited guarantee.
Joyce Thoele, one of several poll respondents who spoke with the Tribune, said
she did not believe Daley and others who said taxpayers are not at risk. She
opposes Daley's Olympic plans and said she would not attend any events if the
Games come here.
"I'm against this because it's going to cost us taxpayers more
money," said Thoele, 76, of the Northwest Side. "The older I get, the
more I don't trust Chicago
Mary Beth Nick, who lives in West Rogers Park, said the Olympics were not worth
the disruption they would cause. "And I think we should concentrate on
improving the quality of life in the city for more than a lot of visitors who
are going to be here for a fortnight," she said.
North Side resident Melanie Payne said she was ambivalent about the Olympics.
She said the Games would provide an international showcase for the city, which
she called the "most wonderful place to live." But she wondered about
Daley and members of his Chicago 2016 bid committee said most costs will be
covered by revenues from the Olympics, developer financing and donations. They
project making money but have lined up $750 million in city and state
guarantees in case of losses.
Chicago 2016 also has lined up $1 billion in private insurance coverage to
protect taxpayers in the event of natural disasters, cancellation of the Games
or a collapse of development financing.
The Tribune/WGN poll was conducted over five days, beginning the day after the
Civic Federation released a report that was generally supportive of the 2016
committee's financial plans.
Aaron Williams-Banks, a college student who works part time for the Chicago
Park District, favors the Games and believes taxpayers are adequately
"We need a boost to our economy," he said. "This is a great
thing. The Olympics will help the city."
When the Tribune last took the pulse of city residents on the Olympics in
February, 61 percent supported the Games compared with 47 percent now.
Opposition has grown from 26 percent in February to 45 percent now.
The IOC conducted its own poll in February, finding that 67 percent of the
residents in Chicago
and the suburbs were in favor.
The IOC did not measure the sentiments of just city residents, as both Tribune
Since the last Tribune poll, feelings against using tax money to cover any
shortfalls have grown stronger, with 84 percent opposed now, compared with 76
percent in February.
The extent to which the new poll influences IOC voters on Oct. 2, when the
winning city is announced, will depend in large part on whether the results
change the political landscape, said Kevin Wamsley, an Olympic historian at the
University of Western Ontario. He said the fresh poll
results could provide fodder for opponents.
Kevan Gosper of Australia,
one of the longest-sitting IOC members, said he believed Chicago's bid was gaining traction among
But he also said community support was an important element.
"Normally," Gosper said, "you would hope public sentiment would
be building as a candidate city approaches the competition."