The [Monday] Papers
The embarrassing folly that is the Sun-Times's coverage of the city's 2016 Olympics bid continued over the weekend with a front-page story billed as an "Exclusive First Look" at the proposed Olympic Village that wasn't much of a look at anything at all - "more an idea than a real design at this point," said Skidmore, Owings & Merrill managing partner Tom Kerwin, who is also an advisor to the city's Olympic committee.
The rest of the story - I know, shocking for the Sun-Times - was impossible to differentiate from a press release. This unquestioned spin point in particular caught my attention: "The [Washington Park] stadium would have 15,000 more seats than an earlier Olympic arena concept for downtown, in part because it's now anticipated that the excitement of the Chicago Games would create 'an extraordinary appetite for tickets,' [advisor Doug] Arnot said."
Right. Under the previous proposal, city officials did not anticipate such an appetite for tickets. The change has nothing to do with the fact that the previous proposal was untenable; how could it have been, the Sun-Times must be thinking, when we "reported" how great that plan was too?
Compare and Contrast
"Chicago's search for an Olympic stadium is focused on three possibilities: building a collapsible stadium between Soldier Field and McCormick Place; retrofitting Soldier Field, or demolishing McCormick Place East to make way for a permanent facility, City Hall sources said," Fran Spielman reported on June 12.
There was no talk from Mayor Daley then about how the Olympics had to serve the communities outside of downtown, particularly where African Americans live, as the mayor so emphatically stated and Spielman so enthusiastically bought last week.
In fact, Spielman reported in June that the mayor had considered having opening and closing ceremonies as far away as Notre Dame, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, or the University of Illinois in Champaign.
That's when the Olympics were going to be a Midwest Olympics, which was a great idea. Until the great idea became a compact, center city Olympics. Then the great idea became a South Side Olympics. Maybe Chicago will be awarded three Games so all these great ideas don't go to waste.
The Sun-Times has a short memory, but I don't. On June 23, Spielman dutifully reported local Olympics impresario Pat Ryan saying the city had "an elegant solution" to its stadium problem. We know now that the solution was anything but.
That was in a story trumpeting a poll showing that nearly 80 percent of Cook County residents wanted Chicago to host the Olympics, which is like asking residents if they think it would be cool to host a Super Bowl or maybe have the Mardi Gras come to town. The poll didn't ask about pesky things like how much they were willing to pay to land the Games. The poll was also conducted by the same outfit that does Daley's political polling.
Spielman's propensity to swallow anything the mayor's people tell her was on full display in that piece.
"In a surprise change of heart, Daley announced last summer that he had decided to make a serious bid to host the 2016 Summer Games," Spielman wrote. "The mayor cited two reasons for the about-face: many venues are now in place, and business leaders have agreed to front the city's bidding costs."
Aside from the city not having the only venue in place that counts - a stadium to hold opening and closing ceremonies as well as track and field and other events - does the city really have any more venues in place now than it has in the past? And were business leaders really previously reluctant to pony up for bidding costs?
Spielman didn't ask. She just wrote down what she was told.
On June 24, the Sun-Times's puffery continued, with Stephanie Zimmerman reporting on mayoral spokeswoman Jackie Heard saying that Chicago's bid would include "thousands more" spectator seats than any Olympics in modern history. (Apparently not ancient history, though.)
On August 10, Shamus Toomey reported that the temporary downtown stadium plan was still on the table despite criticism from the USOC.
"They liked the concept very much of the lakefront, the concentration," Ryan said, when asked what the United States Olympic Committee liked about Chicago's plan.
So the mayor's epiphany about an Olympics that would spread out into the neighborhoods where he has discovered black people live must have come in the last few weeks. The Sun-Times has not yet reported on just when and how this happened, but I'm sure once the mayor's aides think it up and pass it along to Spielman, she'll let us know.
Well, apparently the editorial board has finally seen some solid ideas. The board is declaring that it has no problem with the mayor playing racial politics as he takes the city for an Olympic ride exquisitely timed to his re-election campaign. Regardless of winning an Olympic bid, the editorial board says, the effort is worth it because it is "helping Chicago define, again, what kind of city it is and wants to be."
Um, can someone help me out here, because I have no idea what that means. A city with a newspaper incapable of reaching the basic standards of journalism? A city with an editorial board continually confused about what kind of city we are? Throw me a bone here, people. This one has gone clear over my head.
* The Political Odds have changed. The chances that Gov. Rod Blagojevich is identified as a target of federal investigators makes its inaugural appearance on the board.
* A line by line summary of what's wrong with the CTA. Choose your favorite color-coded woe.
* New magnet schools coming on line, including a school that will prepare students for careers in the magnet industry.
* A new installment of Chicago In Song, featuring the city as a destination for those escaping broken hearts.
* Did our man finally pick some games right? Follow the drama.
The Beachwood Tip Line: Say it loud, say it proud.
Posted on September 25, 2006
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