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The [Thursday] Papers

How ironic that the mayor's sorry record for managing big projects (Millennium Park, O'Hare expansion, Block 37, Soldier Field) now comes back to bite him in the ass.

"Citing overruns that more than tripled the cost of the $475 million Millennium Park, USOC officials said they want some form of government guarantee that a temporary Olympic stadium in Washington Park can be built for $366 million and the Olympic village can be built for $1.1 billion," the Sun-Times reports.

In other words, the USOC - not unreasonably - won't award its international Olympic bid to Chicago unless the mayor puts us taxpayers on the hook to pay for anything that doesn't go according to Daley's dreamy plan.

Start saving now!

Actually, the mayor has already put us on the hook - he just hadn't gotten around to telling us yet. I mean, he was busy campaigning and all.

"We have been assured by the mayor that that is the case with the city of Chicago," said the chairman of the USOC's evaluation committee, Bob Ctvrtlik.

Reporters repeatedly asked the mayor if this meant he was breaking his promise that no public money would be used on the Olympics, and in typical fashion he repeatedly refused to answer. He would only say, "We will issue the statement very shortly."

You know, the statement crafted by his advisers that doesn't require him to explain his actions to the public - you know, the folks who will end up paying the freight for his so-called dream.

Par for the course in Chicago, there never was a public debate about whether it was wise for the city to bid for the Games. The media, for the most part, has gone along for the ride uncritically.

I mean, hey, who wouldn't want the Olympics here? It'd be a blast, and I don't understand the only objection I've heard - that we'd have to suffer through added congestion for a couple weeks. And? That's too big a sacrifice?

But the real debate is and has always been about the money; who's spending it and who's getting it.

The Tribune today says that hosting the Olympics would cost $5 billion - $3 billion in operations and $2 billion in construction costs.

Chicago's Olympic committee, of course, projects a surplus based on revenue generated by the Games. That's certainly possible. But is it likely?

"In a world where the Olympics are unlikely to attract spectators, prestige or business like they used to, Chicago may be better off avoiding investing even privately raised funds in an event that has produced mediocre returns," Irving Rein and Ben Shields of Northwestern University write in a Trib Op-Ed today.

The Olympics, Rein and Shields say, ain't what they used to be.

They also remind us that "if Chicago beats out Los Angeles, it would then move on to face Tokyo, Rio de Janiero, Madrid and Rome."

Is it realistic to think Chicago has a shot against that kind of international competition?

I really don't know.

But I do know that the city would have had a better shot at getting past Los Angeles if the mayor had actually thought ahead and begun this process before last summer, when he abruptly announced to the city that he was going for it after years of showing no interest in hosting the Games.

The result has been a stadium scramble (remember how great we were told the two-stadium lakefront proposal was?) without public input that has left several alternatives (the USX site and Illinois International Port District land chief among them) off the table.

But then, I'm sure the mayor's strategy, a la Meigs Field, was to avoid debate in the interests of "getting things done." You know, without those pesky citizens whose checkbooks he'll be dipping into getting all, um, involved.

On the other hand, maybe that makes Chicago ripe to win the international competition as well. We can spotlight for the world how dictatorships can work quite efficiently - by some measures - if you have the right man at the helm.

Gold Medal Media
Ctvrtlik noted, the Sun-Times reports, "the enthusiasm we felt here - from schoolchildren, from the bid committee, from taxi drivers, even the media."


"There were missteps," Sun-Times reporter Andrew Herrmann notes, though. "The group was met outside their hotel here by three anti-Olympics protesters screaming at them through a bullhorn."

Three protesters! What a misstep! Such a failure to quell dissent! Looks like the Games will go to Singapore now.

"And a hiccupping hybrid bus needed to be swapped en route, too."

I guess the hybrid was between a bus that works and one that doesn't.

"But to a group interested in putting on a Games with as little political opposition as possible, 'We realized under the leadership of Mayor Daley, this is a city that can get things done,' Ctvrtlik said."

No matter how much it costs, or how shoddy the results - as long as the political opposition is held to fewer than three protesters screaming through a bullhorn.

Tin PR
From the dispatches of the Trib's Philip Hersh during yesterday's site visit:

"10:46 a.m. An L.A. edge. Los Angeles' experience from playing host to the Olympics in 1984 has been evident in the quality of media operations, a significant part of an Olympic bid.

"For example, L.A. provided a summary of its bid book and flash-card info on venues. They also had a well-defined tour plan and a knowledgeable narrator, Olympic operations veteran Rich Perelman.

"Chicago has no documentation and an unwieldy venue guide.

"L.A. media operations: A.

"Chicago (so far): D-plus."

Apparently, the city was reading.

"7:50 p.m. Earlier in this account, there was much criticism and a D grade for the Chicago 2016 bid team's media operations. They listened to the criticism and made improvements on the fly, which is an important skill for Olympic organizing committees. They get an A for the final leg of the venue tour."

Poll Games
The Tribune is conducting a click poll on its website asking if "you" want the Olympics to come to Chicago. I'd like to see them report how many respondents come from city servers.

Beachwood Memo
With so much other news this week - inflated test scores, the governor's big budget plan, the Libby conviction, Barack's stocks (and the more audacious disinviting of his pastor to his announcement speech), the imploding Bears, and, of course, spring training, I'm chomping at the bit, but overwhelmed. Also trying to conduct some business. Will try to catch up.

Meanwhile, we're happy today to bring you an interview with outgoing Ald. Burton Natarus, in all its Burtonian weirdness, and a review of NASA TV - in all its Burtonian weirdness.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Go for the bronze. Less pressure.


Posted on March 8, 2007

MUSIC - Who's Next In Chicago Rap.
TV - Tribune-Nexstar Deal Is Bad News.
POLITICS - Big Soda Hates You.
SPORTS - The Ex-Cub Factor.

BOOKS - Wright Brothers, Wrong Story!

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - The Bad News About Human Nature.

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