Blessing in Disguise?
Anne-Marie Woods | Monday, October 5, 2009
The Second City has finished fourth.
All signs pointed to a winning bid for America’s heartland city. After millions of dollars spent on what seemed to be a successful campaign and visits from an all-star cast including a last minute plea from the president himself, Chicago still could not bring home the win.
Friday’s vote by the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen eliminated Chicago in the first round, leaving the city, IOC members and many Americans shocked and stunned at the disappointing fourth place finish, with Rio de Janeiro ultimately winning the bid.
But maybe it was a blessing in disguise. Is America, namely Chicago, really ready to play host for the world?
While some said bringing the games back to United States would help boost confidence and morale, jumpstart the economy, and show the world a new, stronger America, hosting the Olympics could very well have done the opposite. Estimated to have cost $4.8 billion, many Chicago residents feared the implications of turning their city, already struggling to stay afloat in this economic recession, into the 2016 Olympic games site.
In a poll taken in August for the Chicago Tribune, 45 percent of Chicagoans were opposed to bringing the games to their city altogether, with an alarming 84 percent against the bid, fearing the costs would fall heavily on the taxpayers to fund the games.
While Mayor Daley touted the games as central to an economic boom for the city, there were no guarantees that the Olympics would have been profitable for Chicago.
Were Chicagoans really willing to take that risk? It seems the glitz and glamour of hosting the three-week international event overshadowed substantial concerns about what the games could do to the Windy City.
With an unreliable, worn-down commuter system and traffic-logged highways, transportation would have been Chicago’s primary problem, something the IOC called to the city’s attention prior to the final vote. Everyday life would come to a startling halt for the metropolitan area’s 9.6 million residents.
Hosting the games also meant a series of new building projects and improvements for the city’s lakefront and civic centers. While this comes standard for most cities holding the Olympic games, Chicago’s history of delayed civic construction projects and the city’s already insolvent economy would have magnified the difficulties of this task.
Finally, an important yet conveniently overlooked feature of bringing the games to Chicago was the inevitable displacement of local residents in predominantly poor and working class neighborhoods of the South Side in order to make room for Olympic venues and the Olympic Village. A history of the Olympic games reveals a pattern of displacement among cities’ poorer inhabitants, and Chicago would not have been any different.
So instead of grumbling over an unfair vote, be thankful for fourth place and move on. Celebrate with Brazil as they begin the difficult task of welcoming the world to their nation, more broadly their continent, for the first time in the Olympic history.