The [Wednesday] Papers
By Steve Rhodes
I didn't realize until I read Mark Brown's column this morning how courageous our aldermen were being by unanimously rubber-stamping a blank check for an Olympic bid that was once sold as risk-free to taxpayers.
But now I get it.
"They've looked at the financial numbers," Brown assures us.
The aldermen have looked at the numbers?
That would be a first.
Brown also thinks aldermen "deserve some credit for having tried to address concerns by building in more oversight for the public if the city is chosen to host the Games."
Credit for trying!
Question: Why is oversight needed so badly if City Hall can be trusted with, you know, the numbers?
"Ald. Manny Flores (1st), an architect of the oversight provisions, was unhappy with the final product because it left out a directive that the city's inspector general would review the reports," Brown continues. (I'd link but the Sun-Times website is royally fucked up. Welcome, Jim Tyree!)
"But as we were talking, other aldermen came by to congratulate him, saying he won more concessions than they thought possible."
Brown scores this as a good thing. At least they're trying!
Question: Why is City Hall so opposed to allowing the inspector general the privilege of reviewing how the quasi-public Olympic committee spends its money and lets its contracts?
Maybe Brown should find out and get back to us.
"I think it's important to realize that the aldermen have been on the receiving end of the kind of sales pitch that would have swayed members of the public."
Oh, I get it. The aldermen have more information than we do.
The city has had plenty of chances. They've lied, obfuscated, hornswaggled and refused comment.
True, aldermen are susceptible to that kind of sales pitch, as are mediocre newspaper columnists. But the public seems to have turned against the bid the more they have learned.
It's not that Patrick Ryan is a poor salesman, as Brown posits. He's a powerful salesman. That's why he's there. And Chicago 2016 has spent millions on public relations.
The problem is that the facts are poor salesmen for a fantasy.
"A hugely expensive Chicago 2016 ad in multiple media outlets Tuesday was written by Martin Luther King III and essentially stated that to be against Chicago's bid is to be against his famous grandfather's 'dream'," Rick Telander writes today.
"King III cites Atlanta's 1996 Games as having been some kind of boon and nirvana wrapped into one.
"What I recall was a park bombing, steroid-cheating and more T-shirt sellers than in Fort Lauderdale and Miami combined.
"But I was there. And I guess reality isn't the issue."
"According to well-known Olympic scholar, Helen Lenskyj, "The Olympic Games have always been a bad thing for the region that hosts them. They involve massive long-term changes to regional infrastructure to accommodate a two-week influx of tourists and athletes . . . the whole agenda is dominated by multinationals.
"Indeed, Atlanta's experience brought housing displacement, evictions, arrests, expenditures of public funds, and and the cementing of developers' control over the city's administration and planning processes."
"Athens initially projected that its Games would cost $1.6 billion, but they ended up costing closer to $16 billion (including facility and infrastructure costs). Beijing projected costs of $1.6 billion, but current estimates are that they will cost between $30 billion and $40 billion. London expected its 2012 Games to cost under $5 billion, but they are now projected to cost $19 billion. In a world where total revenue from the Games is in the neighborhood of $4 to $5 billion for the Summer Olympics and roughly half that for the Winter Games, costs above these levels mean that someone has to pay. While private companies often contribute a share of the capital costs (beyond the purchase of sponsorships), host governmental bodies usually pick up a substantial part of the tag. Moreover, as we have seen, not all the money generated at the Games stays in the host city to pay for the Games; rather, close to half the money goes to support the activities of the IFs, the NOCs and the IOC itself.
"Thus, while the Sydney OCOG in 2000 reported that it broke even, the Australian state auditor estimated that the Games true long-term cost was $2.2 billion. In part, this was because it is now costing $30 million a year to operate the 90,000-seat Olympic Stadium.
"Similarly, the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona generated a reported surplus of $3 million for the local organizing committee, but it created a debt of $4 billion for the central Spanish government and of $2.1 billion for the city and provincial governments."
"Our review of the existing peer-reviewed evidence on the economic impact of the Olympic Games reveals relatively little evidence that hosting the Games produces significant economic benefits for the host city or region."
But Mark Brown is confident that the famously brilliant members of the Chicago City Council have run the numbers.
* "Be forewarned: The Bears will not win the Super Bowl," our very own George Ofman writes in The Bears: Worse Than You Think. "Nor are they likely to play in it."
* Devin Hester is the wrong wide receiver for fantasy football enthusiasts to keep their eyes on. Dan O'Shea tells you which Bears wideout you should be looking at instead, in Fantasy Fix.
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Posted on September 9, 2009
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