Chicagons Split After Olympic Bid Goes To Rio

Alan Rubenstein@@uarubyAnalyst IIIOctober 26, 2009

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 02:  Crowds are stunned and disappointed as they learn Chicago was eliminated in the first round of votes during the 2016 Summer Olympic rally and announcement at Daley Plaza on October 2, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago hoped to be selected over the other three finalists Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro but was the first city eliminated.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

At its heart and soul, Chicago is a city fueled by sports and politics.  In the neighborhood bars in the City and Suburbs, the talk will most likely center around one of those two.  The attempted Olympic bid was the perfect convergence of the two in bars and on sports talk radio shows throughout Chicagoland. 

When it was announced that Chicago failed to make it past the first round of votes for the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympics it set off passions on both sides of the issue from Chicagoans everywhere. Its been three weeks since the announcement was made, Chicago has moved on but the lingering passion of losing the Olympics remains.

As decision day drew closer, the support for Chicago 2016 seemed to be waning.  Most of the polls that were being taken indicated about a 50 percent split for the bid.  This topic wasn't  for the meek, people had strong feelings either way on the bid.  Those that were in favor of the bid have suggested as strong as the US boycotting the games in light of the loss (of course this is not going to happen), or at least, fans boycotting viewing any of the Olympics in 2016. 

Chicagoans are a very proud group.  It took 40 years to shed the international stereotype of a city of gangsters.  Siskel and Ebert at the Movies, Air Jordan and John Hughes in the eighties, Oprah in the nineties and now Barak Obama have put Chicago on the map as a diverse international city. During a trip to Israel in 1985, when I told my cab driver I was from Chicago he commented "Michael Jordan, Al Capone, bang, bang"

The modern Chicago is a city that has seen varying degrees of sports success and big events. Sports fans in their late thirties and over grew up "waiting until next year".  It was 22 years between titles in the four major sports.  The Bears won the 1963 NFL Championship and next won Super Bowl XX (1985 season). Cubs fans attended the Olympic rally at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago took to flying the Cubs W flags and their "Its going to happen" signs.  That worked out about as well the Cubs success in the last century.

Chicago 2016 would have increased the Chicago's visibility as an international city. It would have been the largest event in Chicago since the 1893 Colombian Exposition (World Fair). As the October 2nd D-Day grew closer, Chicagoans were split about the prospect of Chicago hosting the world. Many people did not like the prospect of the "Daley Olympics" and possible burden of debt to the tax payers. Social Media has provided an interesting cross section of Chicagoans to view the how the announcement was received. 

The perception of many was that these Olympics were all about Chicago.  A Chicago police officer said to me "you live in the burbs. Living and working in this city, I put my Chicago street-cred up against yours any day"  This is a naive and arrogant view of the Olympics.  It takes much more than a single city to put on an Olympics. 

Venues at an Olympics span far greater than a city or even its Metropolitan area.  When Chicago hosted the 1994 World Cup and its opening ceremonies, volunteers and employees came from the entire Chicago area and the upper Midwest to assist in the effort to make the World Cup a success and help put Chicago on an international stage. 

If the Chicago 2016 had been successful, the venues would have extended far beyond the Chicago city limits. The modern pentathlon and aquatics were set to be staged at Northwestern University in Evanston, the shooting competition at Governors State in University Park, the Equestrian in far north suburban Oak Mill Creek and the road cycling was going to take place about 165 miles from Chicago, just west of Madison, Wisconsin. When the Olympics were awarded to Rio, the loss was felt far beyond the Chicago City Limits.

The disappointment of losing the Olympics vs. the exhilaration of them going to Rio has been an interesting battle. The Internet has provided an interesting modern forum for people to share thoughts, debate and gain information on virtually any issue.

The Chicago 2016 Olympic bid created a heated discussion on both sides.  Virtually any topic on the Internet brings many types of opinions.  These range from immature debates with name calling and making one more important than they really are. Social Media has made everyone into an expert.

Those opposing the Olympics were either against Daley and the "Chicago Machine" getting rewarded, or the perceived mess that it would have caused logistically.  One colleague of mine said "the thought of Daley and his crew getting even richer off the backs of real Chicagoans, all the while jacking up our taxes and cutting services." 

Another peer that was against it mentioned "I just wasn't looking forward to Daley and his mobster crew throwing a big party and sticking us taxpayers with the bill! This city makes places like Russia and Columbia look corruption free, and I am right sick of it!".  While many cities were burdened with debt in the past, most cities that host the Olympics benefit more than they lose.  It creates a legacy that lasts the city for many years beyond the Olympic fortnight. 

Most Chicagoans were more upset about the timing of the outcome than the eventual result. The expectation was that the final decision was going to come down to Chicago and Rio De Janeiro. Chicagoans follow sports passionately and usually know the forces behind a decision. Unfair results, cronyism, nepotism, favors for friends and questionable hiring practices are all part of the political landscape for the Windy City and Cook County. 

The Olympics have had their own fair share of scandals. The briberies that came to light in Salt Lake City seemed to quell any political favors within the IOC.  When information came out that Asia created a voting bloc for Tokyo and Europe for Madrid, Chicagoans felt cheated. Madrid finishing second was the vote that was particularly questionable. 

Former IOC Chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch appealed to the IOC voters to vote for Madrid so that he could see an Olympics in his hometown. During Madrid's presentation Samaranch said ""I know that I am very near the end of my time...I am, as you know 89 years old. May I ask you to consider granting my country the honor and also the duty to organize the games in 2016."  If Barcelona hadn't hosted the Olympics in 1992, this would have had a much bigger impact.  Samaranch using a personal appeal for his hometown to host the Olympics seemed highly unethical.  The Olympics are far bigger than one person.

As with any major vote, other factors came to light since that fateful day in Copenhagen. What were the true factors in the Olympics being awarded to Rio and what worked against Chicago? Whereas Chicago has many things going for it to host the Olympics, a few outside factors might have hurt the Windy City's chances. Chicago was the only Olympic finalist that had an organized group against its own city being awarded the Olympics. No Games Chicago was loud, proud and in Copenhagen to make a stand against Chicago 2016.  They sent a 160 page "Book of Evidence" to the IOC. 

Another factor that has been debated is the long running fued between the IOC and the USOC over right fees and the USOC's objective to create an Olympic TV network. The majority of IOC members were offended that the USOC announced the creation of the network prematurely. Also at stake was that the IOC had not yet granted the USOC permission to use the Olympic name or archival video footage.

The debate over who controls the rights over the distribution of money in the United States continued the grievances between the USOC and IOC. The majority of sponsorship and advertising dollars in the Olympics come from the United States.  The USOC would like to receive a higher percentage of the distribution of money from sponsors and advertisers.

The tension between the IOC and USOC did nothing to help Chicago. Add that to the fact that South America had never hosted an Olympics and the perception was out there that Rio was going to receive the Olympics no matter what happened.  With Chicago being Rio's main competition, some felt that some IOC members wanted to make sure Chicago was eliminated early. An unidentified IOC member was quoted as saying "When you look at the margin, it was clear there was an effort to make sure that Rio got this, and the only meaningful threat to Rio would have been Chicago. So all the friends of Rio were urged to try and make sure Chicago didn't get into the position".

The announcement of first lady Michelle Obama and then President Obama heading to Copenhagen to help promote their hometown's Olympic bid excited many Chicagoans.  The perception among the IOC was much different. Many IOC members had to wait up to 45 minutes to meet with the President and first lady.  Their presence also increased security in the IOC Hotel lobby and meant that certain parts of the hotel were off limits.  For an IOC constituency that is used to being pampered, many resented the Obamas as a result.  This only gave voters another reason to resent the United States, the USOC and more specifically the Chicago Olympic bid.  One Chicagoan felt that "Chicago got jobed". 

The letdown of Chicago not getting the Olympics could be felt all through the Chicago area.  Viewing parties were set up at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago, Roosevelt University in Northwest Suburban Chicago, Silver Cross field in far Southwest Suburban Joliet and in the downtown area of West Suburban Naperville.

The cost of the bid for the  Olympics was reported at $50 million. The majority of the bid was financed by private donors and corporate sponsorships. The attempted bid established Chicago as a serious player on the international sport stage.  Past events like the 1994 World Cup and their opening ceremonies proved Chicago can stage an international sports event.

World Sport Chicago was created from Chicago2016. That group will help foster Chicago's sports aspirations and make it a contender in the future for other major sporting events. The bid process brought the Chicago area together. Whether someone was for or against the bid, it had people talking about the possibility of an Olympics in Chicago.

Former USOC Chairman Peter Uberroth appearing on the Versus Network said "Chicago is the best city internationally equipped to host an Olympics". Despite the loss, Chicagoans have a lot to be proud of.  It remains to be seen if Chicago ever attempt another Olympic bid. It is highly likely that at worst, many national sporting events will be coming to the Windy City in the next decade or so.