The International Olympic Committee is expected to announce its final choice for the city that will host the 2016 Olympics tomorrow. All of Chicago’s superstars – Barack and Michelle, Oprah, Mayor D and various others – are workin’ it in Copenhagen, campaigning for the Windy City to win the bid.
The word on the street back home is one of confident hesitation – seems as though many believe the city will in fact be chosen, but aren’t so sure if Chicago needs it.
I, like almost every other kids, once fantasized about being in the Olympics. I imagined myself as a swimming champion. While that dream ended when I was about 14, I still understand the appeal and inspiration the Olympics can have, and it’s a great thing.
But for months and months, Mayor Daley, and those rallying behind Chicago’s bid, said that no city tax dollars would be used to fund the games. Then comes April, when Chicago is one of four final cities up for consideration, Daley changes his tune and agrees to foot the bill (and the City Council gives their stamp of approval, like good little minions).
More than a few people were ticked off. Earlier this month, the Chicago Tribune reported that the city is split, with only 47 percent saying they support the Games coming to Chicago, while 45 percent are opposed. But they weren’t split over using public funds: 87 percent opposed using tax dollars to pay for the Olympics.
It’s no wonder, the Olympics are a pretty expensive in this economy. The cost is expected to be more than $3.8 billion, and that’s according to the organization leading the effort to host the games, Chicago 2016. While according to CNNMoney.com, the Olympics are traditionally not a revenue producing venture.
Chicago also differs from other cities in that it has control over the Chicago Public School District, and taxes from the city go into the CPS general fund (and state and fed, too). Meaning, CPS does not levy its own property tax dollars (correct me if I’m wrong), but rather they comes through the city. The city of Chicago also has a portion of the funding responsibility for the Chicago Housing Authority and the Chicago Transit Authority. Chicago is much more intertwined in other government agencies than other cities are. And for the past few years, similar to many other cities throughout the country, all Chicago has been doing is making program cuts and raising taxes. Being the highest taxed city in the country already, people are quite worried that the bill for the Olympics could make things spiral out of control.
There is also the concern that the fruit of any economic development that will take place as a result of winning the Olympics bid will (in Chicago tradition) fall into the hands of the wealthy and well-connected. Think about who will be rewarded those contracts for the Olympic Village construction. There is the potential to push the gap between rich and poor in the city even greater, and concern that the Olympics will cause greater segregation and less affordable housing as low income communities will be forced to retreat from areas where rents climb.
But I’m a hypocrite because if the games do come to Chicago, I’m going.
Anyway, we’ll know tomorrow… finally.