Leading personalities who were aligned with the city of Chicago admit dejection that they recently were unable to outdo three other host sites for the 2016 Olympic Games. The winner of the competition was Rio de Janeiro and Chicago finished fourth behind Rio, Madrid and Tokyo. That was a blow to the ego of The City of Big Shoulders and erased what promoters felt would be massive economic benefits.
Yet some Illinoisans are crying dry tears.
A year or so ago, surveys indicated Chicago residents favored by a 2-1 ratio their city’s being selected. As more details came to light, that public sentiment was found to be dropping to almost a 50-50 break as the final vote loomed. It appears residents of the region are not as displeased with the International Olympic Committee’s selection as officials might indicate.
When a city claimed delegates with the clout of U.S. President Barack Obama and his persuasive wife, Michelle, the egregious Oprah Winfrey, the mayor of the community and all their able supporters, there was a tendency to see Chicago as a fail-safe choice as host for the ’16 Games.
Yet for a lot of reasons, the U.S. delegation faced terrific competition on their trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, where the decision was made.
Chicago had been going all out with public gatherings, the plastering of “We Back the Bid” signs all over town and constant trumpeting of what some Windy City residents thought was in their favor. As a number of analysts pointed out, Americans and those in many other nations are all too familiar with Chicago’s public corruption, problems with public services and growing crime difficulties. Others said the Games would only create new bills to pay and that there was no guarantee of even breaking even, let alone profiting. Chicago with its gangster-ized reputation and a machine election legacy of “vote early and vote often” had a mob-type reputation to minimize. Such negative images had to factor in the IOC choice.
Home-town skeptics pointed to the debacle of an ousted Illinois governor for crookery and the fear they might be left with a $1 billion deficit — as was the fate of Montreal in 1976. Those doubts were duly noted in Copenhagen.
Never has there been a more unusual Olympic host turnabout than that by Denver in 1970. Denver had been formally awarded the 1976 Winter Olympics. Officials rejoiced. Too soon, it turned out. Critics took a harder look. They did some figuring and found that initially announced local costs for the host role would go up at least 300 percent in a few years and feared great danger to the precious Colorado environment.
An election was called and in November of 1972, citizens turned down a $500 million bond issue for the Olympics by a 3-2 vote. By mid-November, Denver officially rejected its status and the Winter Games were moved to Innsbruck, Austria.
Because of the poor economy, crime, corruption and the concerns of many Second City citizens about financial pitfalls for 2016, Chicago promoters, including the Obamas and Oprah Winfrey, did not have the kind of community solidarity they really needed for the Copenhagen effort. They came home empty-handed with the full approval of perhaps half the residents in the Chicago area.