01 October 2009

Why I'm against Chicago 2016

I've been ripping on the Chicago 2016 efforts since they first started and although I've shared my views with some, why not post it for the world to see?

What you need to understand about my views on this are that if "we" win or lose, it really won't change my personal life one bit.  I'm not actively campaigning against the bid, and won't be crestfallen if we win OR lose.  But I believe this shows, once again, that the public can be goaded into supporting even the most idiotic ideas if they are packaged up in slick marketing and salesmanship.

What I can't stand is that everyone keeps talking about "we" with respect to these efforts and the bid.  Who really are the "we" that benefit from winning the games?

As has been said thousands of times both from the group making the pitch as well as in the press, they are planning on not spending $1 of tax money on the Olympics.  It's a private enterprise.

Now, it's interesting that in order to even stay in competition, the IOC forces host cities/countries to sign a pledge that has massive back-up plans for financing including dipping into public monies.  This is because the IOC has to have a guarantee at profit for themselves in order for this to happen.  This is why there was a huge uproar when Mayor Daley had to sign it when he was last in front of the IOC when Chicago made the final four.  He signed it without getting the backing of the City Council or the Cook County Board FIRST which ultimately is against all of those taxing bodies rules.  Checks & Balances be damned, we need this, right?

So let me get back to the elephant in the room.  It's a private enterprise.  Whether claiming to be a non-profit or not, this means that if awarded, the private company can hire/employee/contract with whomever it wants.  Frankly, if I ran a business, I'd want the same and I do not fault the 2016 group one bit, as it's their money they are putting forward.

But as a private enterprise, who then gets the economic benefit?  Won't all profits that come in from the Olympics go back into the private enterprise to cover expenses?

There's lots of talk when these bids take place about the economic benefit to the host city/nation.  I've been to Barcelona and still see the buildings from 1992 standing, some being used, some not.  I'm sure for a small country or one who needs infrastructure, being awarded the games because it's the government pitching for it DOES mean that there will be benefit to the hosts.

Supporters will claim that there will be construction and improvements but the physical changes are not many in the case of Chicago. We have current venues for most activities and the main venue that would be used for the opening and closing ceremonies has been said to be a temporary one and will be taken down after the games.  I question whether the much needed improvements to transportation will truly happen and if they do, why did we need the games to justify them?  Ridership is down, bus and train lines are being cut left and right and the El trains are horribly old and dangerous. If they haven't been important enough for the City to raise capital to repair for the 6 million plus natural inhabitants, why would they be for the games?  The Olympic village for the athletes isn't really as big as people think and will be turned into housing which will be sold for a profit, it will be of no public use after that.

But lets get to the mythical huge influx of money that is always bandied about along with massive increases in tourism to the city both before and after the games.  As Rick Bayless said the other day on Twitter, "I worked the LA games and it killed business.  Locals left,  visitors actually eat and spend money at event sites".  He's seen it first hand and later predicts the same will happen here in Chicago.

So once again, even food and beverage spend go back into the private enterprise which hands out contracts to only the closely guarded few.  The only benefit I can realistically see is the sales tax and luxury tax that is collected (or should be) on hotel rooms and whatever else is sold.  Given we have the highest sales & luxury taxes in the nation this will be somewhat significant, but I challenge anyone to quantify or even be able to parse out this impact on a City or County budget sheet for 2016.

As for the increases in tourism, BAH!  Chicago has been a destination city for YEARS thanks to the improvements and changes already made over the years.  In spite of losing some conventions due to the high taxes and fees for McCormick Place, people still come to this city and have lots of fun.  We don't need the Olympics to change this or stimulate it, it's already happening in the third largest city of the United States.

So for all the ham-and-eggers who on the streets tomorrow at Daley Plaza for the anticipated celebration, ask yourself what benefit you truly will get if we win this?  The benefits are for the well-connected and few (as they tend to be in Chicago since the 1800's!!).  Tickets to events are always difficult to get and will be scalped on StubHub like nobody's business but for the weak dollar, visitors will happily pay whatever it costs.  T-shirts & trinkets will be marked up to a ridiculous level and you personally really won't benefit from this other than saying you live in the City that is hosting the games.

In the end, there is nothing different between this Olympic Bid and our professional sports teams.  Sure, they love you wearing their merchandise, spending money on their team, eating and drinking in their venues, and painting your faces to show your support, but in the end, it's a business and one that has to make money for those who "own" it.  They count on your passion and in fact have kept priming you for it to make you think you actually will benefit but you are merely a passenger.  If you're super-excited to be that, then good on ya' and enjoy, but don't call me a hater if I don't join the crowd.

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