Thursday, August 4, 2016

What If the Chicago Olympics Were Kicking Off Tomorrow?

What Northerly Island Could Have Looked Like if Chicago Hosted the 2016 Olympics
It's hard to believe, but tomorrow is the opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

While you would be hard-pressed to find many Chicagoans who still think hosting these games would be good a thing, the loss still feels bittersweet.

One of the most demonstrative reactions to defeat I ever witnessed in Chicago occurred when we learned the city lost its bid to host the 2016 Olympics. 
It was Oct. 2, 2009, and thousands of us gathered at Daley Plaza to await the big announcement from the International Olympic Committee's vote in Copenhagen. Satellite trucks from 15 news organizations parked on Clark Street. October optimism — the rarest of things in Chicago — reigned. Anticipation filled the autumn air. One mother pulled her son out of elementary school to experience what she expected to be historic event. And it was.  
It was the day the IOC saved Chicago from itself. 
At exactly 10:32 a.m., then-IOC President Jacques Rogge forever became part of the city's sports landscape with a stunning declaration: "The city of Chicago, having obtained the least number of votes, will not participate in the next round.'' Given Chicago's status as the favorite, this was the equivalent of a No. 1 seed being ousted by a No. 16 on the first day of March Madness. A shocker. 
After hearing Rogge's words coming off the large TV screens, onlookers consoled each other with hugs. Some people cried. Others just shook their heads, amazement matching their disappointment. The Picasso sculpture appeared to be frowning. One local politician, prone to hyperbole, even compared the spirit Chicago would need to recover from this setback to its resilience after the Great Fire of 1871. 
Having originally supported the idea of the 2016 Olympics, this is what I wrote after walking back to Tribune Tower with a sense of dismay: "You have every right to be mad, Chicago. Something smells rotten in Denmark. … This was the most frustrating defeat in Chicago's recent sports history." 
Fast forward to now, days before Friday's opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, and that "most frustrating defeat,'' looks more like it was a fortuitous victory for Chicago. 
In retrospect, those groans in the plaza should have been cheers and any rancor toward the corrupt IOC replaced by relief. In texts documenting the city's first decade of the new millennium, you can find the IOC vote indexed under Blessings In Disguise.
Could you imagine what would be happening in Chicago and the Sloop if we were hosting the opening ceremony tomorrow night?

Given the current dialogue in our country and the world we can only imagine the headlines:

"Donald Trump blames Obama/Clinton for $15 billion Olympic Budget Overage"
"Fearing for Their Lives Olympic Athletes Won't Step Outside of Olympic Village"
"Want to Attend an Olympic Event?  ISIS Threat Means Waiting in 4 Hour Security Lines"

and on and on and on...

In hindsight, we still have problems in this city, but hosting the Olympics were only going to exacerbate them.

At the time, we thought the Olympics would have supercharged development in the Sloop (which it probably would have done).  Obviously the Olympics didn't happen, but the development pace has again reached a frenzied pace.

If you've been reading Sloopin for awhile you can attest that we spent a ton of time talking about the Olympics (this is officially our 158th post having to do with the Olympics).  And it's kinda fun to see what we were talking about back then.

But lucky for all of us, most of the "Olympic" posts stopped after 2009.

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