Saturday, July 11, 2009

Is Chicago My Kind of Olympics Town? Is Chicago My Kind of Olympics Town?

By Evan Weiner

July 11, 2009

11:00 PM EDT

(New York, N. Y.) -- It is amazing that many very bright people turn into spineless jellyfish and feel the need to genuflect in front of the International Olympic Committee. Add Chicago Mayor Richard Daley to the list of politicians and business leaders who become cream puffs when they talk about the International Olympic Committee and the group's president Jacques Rogge. The Chicago Mayor is concerned that too much criticism is being directed at the city's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics and that just might turn off Rogge and his international gang and cause Chicago to lose out on a plum prize, the Summer Olympics.

Daley thinks the winning the Olympics bid would be an economic engine that will create jobs and prosperity in Chicago. Daley has also promised that Chicago would pay for all cost overruns that the 2016 Games accrue. Daley isn't the first politician ever to misjudge the real value and importance of the Summer Olympics and probably will not be the last. It seems that he has caught the same illness that Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau had four decades ago when he went after the 1976 Summer Games.

Montreal finally paid off the Olympics bill in 2006 and has little to show from those Games except for a stadium that has had constant roof problems and a legacy of having generations pay down the debt on those Games.

Daley apparently has not studied recent Summer Olympics history either. The 2004 Athens Summer Olympics was an economic disaster that will cost Greek citizens billions, the 2000 Sydney, Australia Games is still costing Australians hundreds of millions of dollars because of the lack of business for venues that were constructed for the two week athletic competition.

Nonetheless Daley has a vision that Chicago will benefit greatly from United States federal dollars being poured into his city for construction jobs and security apparatus.

What Daley fails to understand is that once the Games leave town, there is very little left behind that is a money generator for a city. Daley should visit Atlanta which hosted the 1996 Summer Games and Salt Lake City which had the 2002 Winter Olympics. Salt Lake City businesses actually saw a decline in foot traffic during the Games and businesses in and around the Atlanta area did far worse than the Atlanta Olympic Committee promised.

Of course Daley could point out that Los Angeles made money on the 1984 Summer Games, but there were unusual circumstances surrounding the LA Games. The IOC was so desperate to put on a show after the American boycott over the Soviet Union invasion of the 1980 Moscow Games that it allowed Peter Ueberroth, Harry Usher and the rest of the LA organizers to use existing facilities instead of building all new venues for events and Ueberroth along with Usher and the rest of the committee were able to pay for the Games through a combination of TV and commercial sponsorship. That allowed the Games to be financially successful.

The next two Olympic tournaments, the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer contests in London are racking up big debts, much more than anyone ever anticipated and with the global economy still in the depths of a major recession, the world wide economic stress since the Great Depression in the 1930s, it appears that local taxpayers will have to pick up the costs of accumulating debt.

The Russians appear to be having financial problems in Sochi, the host city for the 2014 Winter Games.

Holding an Olympics no longer makes any sense because of the demands of Rogge's international cabal. The International Olympic Committee wants host cities to underwrite cost overruns, build new and shiny facilities for events and allow the IOC not local policy to enforce drug laws.

For whatever reason people like Daley become smitten with the Swiss-based IOC. Chicago is vying for the Games against Tokyo, Japan, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Madrid, Spain. Chicago's Olympic bid committee may have two fatal flaws. Chicago is counting on huge sponsorships to help pay off some of the costs of the Games in a climate where corporations are cutting back significantly on sports spending. Richard Daley may be promising that Chicago will underwrite cost overruns but other political leaders in the city are not behind writing a blank check to satisfy Rogge and IOC delegates who will vote on which city is best suited to hoist the Olympics on October 2 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The United States Olympic Committee did not win any friends in Rogge's camp this week by announcing an agreement with Brian Roberts' Comcast to start a United States Olympic Committee cable TV channel. The IOC is of the opinion that a US Olympic Committee cable channel will play havoc with United States broadcast and cable TV network bids for the 2016 Games and might cut down the American bids. The IOC depends on American TV dollars to provide a significant chunk of Olympics funding.

Chicago's three competitors are ready to throw all sorts of money to the IOC in bidding for the Games. Brazil, which is holding an even bigger sports event -- the 2014 FIFA World Cup, is ready to write a huge check to cover local infrastructure costs.

Madrid, despite Spain's huge unemployment rate, is back again trying to win an Olympics. Madrid was beaten out by London for the 2012 Games. Madrid already has some Olympic venues ready to go.

Tokyo seems to have a lot of public support and the bid committee seems want to brainwash a lot of young people with the creation of an education program which is designed to promote Olympics values.

It is unclear whether that will include Avery Brundage's values, the one time President of the United States Olympic Committee who eventually became the President of the International Olympic Committee. Brundage called the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, which were staged in front of German Chancellor Adolph Hitler, the finest in modern history and as IOC President declared that the Games must go on after the murder of 11 Israeli athletes in the Olympic Village during the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics.

Also unclear is whether the Tokyo education program will celebrate the values of another IOC President, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who in 1967 was appointed Government Secretary for Sports by the oppressive Spanish Head of State Francisco Franco. Samaranch, who wanted to be addressed as "Your Excellency" (just like Rufus T. Firefly, the Groucho Marx character in Duck Soup) also presided over the IOC during a period of wide scale corruption in the 1990s which included members of the Salt Lake City committee giving IOC delegates gifts in exchange for votes in the awarding of the 2002 Winter Games.

Chicago politicians are now debating the merits of funding cost overruns. That is not something the IOC will look upon favorably. Richard Daley knows this and has sent out the word, stop whining and put up the money because that is the only language the IOC and IOC delegates understand.

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