In less than a month Chicago will find out if we will get a chance to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. I thought it fitting that I weigh in on this topic. When I first found out that Chicago was in serious contention I was sitting down and eating lunch with a few acquaintances in early 2009. When the subject came up I assumed that everyone was on board, because lets face it, Chicago hasn’t had this much buzz since Michael Jordan won his last championship. No offense to the 2005 Champion White Sox. At any rate my acquaintances were against the Olympics being hosted by Chicago. The arguments against the Olympics were based solely off the Olympic Village and what to do with the structures after the Olympic Games had left town. They would be eyesores and basically a waste of space that could not be used for anything other than a monument and not a continued source of revenue. Being as how I am opened minded I took that argument into consideration because there is merit in what was said.
In July I attended a town hall meeting regarding the Olympics at the UIC Forum. First of all let me say that the presentation was eye catching and professional. The panel of speakers consisted of Alderman Fioretti, Arnold Randolph, Donna Shaw, Beth White and Doc Micholson, Olympic boxing champion. Here is a summary of what was said along with my opinion:
1) Chicago will receive $3 million from international tourism. The great thing about international tourism is that there are “clean” costs associated with international visitors. Tourists do not require us to educate their children nor do most tourists require medical services. Basically tourists come to Chicago to spend dollars so naturally Chicago hosting the Olympics will increase the amount of international tourists. There is a prediction that restaurants will receive a huge boost as tourists will seek unique Chicago style dishes such as deep dish pizza.
2) The construction of new stadiums/housing will take place in Grant Park, Lincoln Park, Washington/Jackson Park and Douglas Park. Some of upgrades pertaining to these stadiums are general restoration, lights and walkways. There are plans to let city youth programs use the stadium facilities once the Olympics have left town. During the meeting a representative of a youth track and field program requested this, as there are limited places for the participants to practice. Universities and Senior Housing companies will have the opportunity to purchase these buildings and facilities. This addressed the concerns of my acquaintances. At this point in the presentation I was convinced that the Olympics were indeed great for Chicago.
3) Federal money will be used to improve roads, rail lines and bridges. Chicago natives can confirm a need for this type of assistance.
4) The only other objection I heard during this presentation, besides the questions of what to do with the stadiums and housing, pertained to displaced Chicago residents who currently live in the same location as the future Olympic structures. General negativity is to be expected in any case involving relocating individuals. However, there will be an effort to provide relocation assistance.
Throughout the presentation I got the impression that with proper planning a Chicago hosted Olympic will benefit Chicago by inviting the World into our homes. We have so much more to offer the world besides the Willis Tower and its time that we let our neighbors discover Navy Pier, Grant Park, Millennium Park, Little Italy, Greek Town, Humboldt Park, China Town, etc. The list goes on and on. On a larger stage we are showing a melting pot of different cultures. We already claim Barack Obama as our homegrown President. Coupled with the Olympics, our newfound fame will translate into larger advertisement, tourism and construction dollars-period.