Posted By: Michael Sweeney
Posted By: Michael Sweeney
Oct. 2, 2009
The day that the news broke that Chicago would NOT be getting the 2016 Olympic Games – with the city being (somewhat shockingly) eliminated from competition among the four finalists in the first round of voting, before the Games were eventually awarded to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – was a grey, drizzly, significantly-colder-than-seasonal day here in the Capital of the Middle of America. One thought of the Games – even the summer Games – being held here, rather than in sunny, smooth, often-clothing-optional Rio, and, well, you can certainly perhaps better understand the International Olympic Committee’s decision…
…And, sure, there had been SOME local excitement and anticipation about potentially getting the Games – mostly driven by the media and Oprah and the Obama connection and the mayor looking to put a tidy little purely-gilded crown on top of the end of his near-record-breaking run as the city’s Boss. (Believe it or not – amazingly – come about Christmas, 2010, Richard M. Daley will have been mayor longer than his legendary father, Richard J. Daley was…) But, frankly, I didn’t hear ANY – none; not a peep of – street-level, day-to-day, person-to-person chatter along the lines of, "Oh, I REALLY hope we get the Olympics!" The dirty little secret (below newspaper headlines and nightly broadcast levels) may well have been the near-overwhelming apathy much of the city seemed to have over whether Chicago landed the ’16 Games or not.
I know that the city held a big, anticipatory gathering downtown to watch the official midday Friday announcement (which had clearly been expected – and even hinted – to have been tipping our way) on giant screens in Daley Plaza, but…hey, you announce ANY sort of get-together these days (and guarantee that plenty of TV cameras and media personalities will be there), and SOME people will be bound to show up. Once I hit the chilly outside air today, I wondered who might be worse off – the downtown (and suddenly downtrodden) Olympics announcement crowd or those blue-clad fans I saw heading north to sit in the cold breezes of Wrigley Field for the 3-or-so hours of this afternoon’s (absolutely pointless; playing-out-the-string) Cubs game. Well, I figured, at least the Cubbie supporters could have a beer or two – AND, at least they still had a chance at witnessing a victory. (So much for semi-predictive thought – the Cubs ended up losing 12-3 to the Diamondbacks…)
My own personal opinion throughout the whole process of the city chasing the Games was pretty much a solid and unwavering…"Meh." I don’t really give two rat’s asses about the Olympics themselves (as a dedicated, lifelong baseball fan, the overblown, quadrennial track-and-field meet always just seemed to me to be a few weeks of distraction in the middle of the prime summer pastime season) – and the thought of the messes and hassles that would accompany the Games here in 7 years (if we got them) did not particularly thrill me. I joked several times that I’d probably just seek to rent out my (semi-prime, lakefront) place for thousands of bucks to some Olympic tourists – and go off to follow the Cubs on their 2-week road-trip that would likely be scheduled during the Games’ residence in town.
…But, I DID acknowledge that the construction-travel-shopping influx that would have accompanied the ’16 Games here could have certainly boosted our troubled local economy (unless, of course, the Games LOST bottom-line money for the city – which was reported to have been an absolute possibility). And once the President signed on to even briefly lobby the IOC to bring the Games to his adopted professional and political hometown, I was at least almost evenly weighing the (general; area-wide) pros vs. the (mostly personal) cons. Plus, it seemed like an almost-done deal – or that’s what we were (guardedly) being led to believe. OK, I thought – maybe, maybe not…we’ll see.
...Now, in retrospect, I’m actually glad that President Obama weighed in (even considering the "loss"). If he hadn’t, he would’ve – no doubt, at least among those widely spread "Everything is Obama’s fault!" wingnuts – been "blamed" for not going all out to try and attract the Games to this country: "If he’d only bothered to go to Copenhagen and schmooze them, maybe Chicago – and the US! – would’ve gotten the Olympics!" (This, of course, in reflection of the truly stupid "He can’t spare a day away!" rhetoric the Repubs and FAUX News have been spreading like manure this week – all of that, of course, following the previous GOP Prez who actually spent (no exaggeration) roughly 2 collective years of his 8-year term on vacation…mostly attempting to clear some tough Texas brush that must have covered much of the vast acreage of the Lone Star State…)
But, today, the – honest, non-spun – reaction here seems to be, "Well, the President – and Michelle AND Oprah – tried their best, but [shrugging]…I guess the world just wasn’t all that ready to come to Chicago – and that’s (pretty much) OK with us…" Not precisely "cause and effect" – more like "unintended consequences." And mostly seeming fine with most of us…
Now, this isn’t – not at all – anything like the "coming out" parties of St. Louis, 1904 (which, to be historically honest, were actually supposed to be Chicago’s games until some political chicanery took place) or even Beijing, 2008. My world-class hometown does not necessarily NEED the exposure of the Olympic Games to help "make it" as a global metropolis. No, we ain’t exactly New York City or London (home to the upcoming 2012 Games)…but neither are we Cleveland, Buffalo, or Detroit. We certainly shall endure – even considering the (very surprising; but also mostly corporate-sponsored) $100 million spent to just get Chicago into the 2016 "Final 4" (along with Rio, Tokyo, and Madrid).
But – I’m telling you – despite much corporate, media, and political frowning today (I picture Mayor Daley slumped over more than he usually is, face particularly redder than normal, staring straight ahead, nearly completely unable to comprehend the unexpected unpleasant news)…I also picture more than a few (a few thousand; even a few HUNDRED thousand) satisfied "whew!" sighs today among everyday Chicagoans who are plenty proud of their city…but just weren’t necessarily in the mood to share it with potentially millions of worldwide visitors all at once.
…Combining a bit of Mel Brooks’ and Sean Connery’s movie philosophies, it sorta boils down to something like, "Hope for the best…expect the worst…and shrug and deal with whichever of those happens to come along – now, THAT’s the ‘Chicago way’!"
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