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The [Monday] Papers

By Steve Rhodes

If a journalist in town wants to make an argument in favor of hosting the Olympics, I'm all ears.

I'm sure there's a good one out there somewhere.

It would be fun, for example.

But the facts are the facts.

And I'm tired of our esteemed media geniuses ignoring them.

The latest is Greg Hinz of Crain's.

"Though a recent Civic Federation study was widely interpreted as giving a big fiscal green light to Chicago's 2016 plan, the report in fact raised a couple of deep ambers verging on red," Hinz writes - in favor of the bid.

(An aside: And just who was doing the interpreting?)

"I'm wishing the City Hall and White House crew good luck," Hinz continues. "On balance, despite the risks, the Olympics would be good for Chicago, and Chicago good for the Olympics."

Hinz breaks down his thinking like this:

* Money: "Though the economic benefits of the games are overrated, they are real. You just can't throw a party of this magnitude without spending a lot of dough, dough that is green and will circulate through our economy."

Now, I don't have a Ph.D in Economics like Hinz apparently does, but as I've recounted in this space repeatedly, I've actually read the data. And Hinz is dead wrong. Factually.

* Image: "Despite Oprah, M. J. and Barack Obama, Chicago still is viewed in much of the world as a cross between Detroit and the set of The Untouchables."

Really? I thought Michael Jordan took care of that. And then Millennium Park, whose cost was justified by its positioning as the new postcard of Chicago.

And of course, the new Soldier Field was sold as a commercial to the world every time a Bears game was on TV.

Besides the fact that, well, who cares?

"Getting the Olympics would be a gigantic commercial to the world that this is a hot town where you and/or your company really ought to be."

Right. Business folk will be so taken by the shotput and the skyline that they'll move their operations to Chicago - until the next Olympic city inspires them.

Gee, it worked for Salt Lake City, didn't it?

* Psychic: "Putting a stake in Chicago's dreadful 'second city' image once and for all."

You know what? Chicago will still be the Second City (actually the Third) if the Olympics are held here. You wanna know why? Because New York is bigger, better and doesn't give a shit.

Instead of spending billions of dollars to help you feel better about where you live, you could just go to therapy for a couple hundred a week and leave the rest of us alone.

* Fun: "Besides, winning would be a lot of fun. And on my scoreboard, that's worth a lot."

Fun, as I've said, is a worthwhile value. I just don't need to spend billions of dollars to have it.

* Crime: Unlike the rest of us, Hinz is apparently going to Rio if the Games are held there.

"I'd rather not be mugged on my way to a stadium the World Cup already used."

So you'd rather be mugged on your way to a fold-up temporary stadium?

Pure nonsense.

Meanwhile, the Sun-Times editorial page endorses the Olympics - again - this morning based on . . . magic.

"Magic, inspiration and hope."

Oh, and unicorns!

Unfortunately, magic doesn't pay the rent or stop the violence or make our damn parking meters work.

And I can be inspired watching the games from Rio.

But here's the real problem with the Sun-Times's childish cheerleading: It ignores actual and indisputable reporting.

"There are concrete benefits likely to flow from a well-executed Games, of course, including a boost to tourism, new jobs and new facilities, most notably the Olympic Village," the newspaper claims despite all evidence to the contrary.

The paper also touts the transparency and oversight of a Games whose City Council oversight would be handed over to Alds. Ed Burke and Carrie Austin instead of an inspector general. And it sure likes those insurance policies, even though they're sure to be full of more holes than Rod Blagojevich's alibi.

Finally, we come to five Tribune columnists who offered their views on Sunday. Talk about a five-way fail.

Rick Morrissey: "Can you imagine some Grabowskis - Mike Ditka's term for lunch pail-carrying Chicagoans - taking in a women's gymnastics competition during the Olympics here?"

Not at those prices I can't.

Besides, Grawbowskis don't live here anymore.

And those Bleacher Bums?

They're all stockbrokers these days.

Hey Rick, 1985 called and they want their archetypes back!

"Grabowski No. 2: 'I don't care what it's called, my friend, but in my next life I want to be a balance beam.'"

Stop, Rick, you're killing me.

Mary Schmich: "An O Globo editor told me that people in Rio know little about Chicago and think Rio's biggest Olympics challenger is Madrid."

And vice versa. People in Chicago don't know anymore about Rio than they do about us. So what.

Did the Olympics in Sydney or Athens or Innsbruck make anyone from Chicago move their business there? Or vacation there when they otherwise wouldn't have?

David Greising: "In most cities, the elders consider the risks associated with the Olympics and just say no. The cost, merely of mounting a bid, is too great; the likelihood of winning remote. The actual construction of a games is a headache or worse.

"Then there is Chicago. This city's shoulders are broad enough to carry the weight of great expectations - and the possibility of dramatic failure."

Oh, what heroes we have here!

Another way to look at it, though, is that the hunger of this city's players to skim the public till is insatiable.

"Over the next seven years, should Chicago host the Olympics, the city will be consumed with the tasks of building and planning. It will be so consumed, in fact, that it might be tempting to ignore another piece of infrastructure that also must be built: a new power structure for Chicago."

Good God!

Greising isn't worried about a consuming event that will distract the city from, say, schools and parks and health and the poor; he's worried that the city's power structure will be busy strutting their stuff they'll forget about replenishing themselves!

Dawn Turner Trice: Trice almost rescues us from Greising et. al., but her column has almost nothing to do with the Olympics.

"Chicago can never truly be a world-class city until it figures out how to save its children."

If that's the case, then there isn't a city on the planet that is world-class.

But at least she's pointing out that our priorities are askew, right?

If only.

"But Chicago 2016 provides a template for mobilizing the dollars and the will to make something really big happen."

Yes. The Olympics.

"We know that if Chicago wins the bid, the city's beautiful skyline will glow in the spotlight. But maybe getting something so grand would help us work to realize a city whose true beauty lies within."

Maybe!

But instead of everyone hoping - desperately - that a few Olympic crumbs will fall off the table for use on our real problems, why not just spend the money directly on our real problems?

Blair Kamin: "Sure, the games could do a lot for Chicago. They might erase the long-lingering image of Al Capone."

Ding ding ding!

Blair Kamin, you are a winner! You are the one-billionth journalist to cite Al Capone in a piece about Chicago's image!

You'd think the guy's face was on our flag.

And here's another salient point that will become all the more important to keep in mind when you get to the next paragraph: For all the infrastructure everyone expects to be improved for the Games, the truth is that the Chicago bid expressly promises not to spend much time on infrastructure. Except when it's advantageous to pretend otherwise.

"The cornerstone of our legacy is our programmatic legacy," Chicago 2016 President Lori Healey told Kamin. "It's really about getting kids involved in sports. Stay in school. Stay away from drugs."

The Chicago bid is all about the kids!

That makes sense. Because a lot of people around here are acting like children.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Child-proof.



Permalink

Posted on September 28, 2009


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Can Anyone Stop Sinclair?
POLITICS - Grade Inflation For The Rich.
SPORTS - Chicago's Table Tennis Festival.

BOOKS - How Subversive Artists Made Thrifting Cool.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - How To Raise A Pizza.


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