Editor’s Note: Nation Sports Editor Dave Zirin authored this piece when Chicago was still in the running to be a 2016 Olympics host city. Now that President Obama has traveled to Copenhagen to support the bid–and lost–Zirin’s critique of the bid remains current. Below, why Chicagoans should not be disappointed that their city lost out–and why they probably aren’t.
“This is a devastating blow for the people of Chicago.” So said ESPN’s Chicago-born Michael Wilbon. But today’s decision to send the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio was in fact a victory for the people of Chicago. Pushing back against immense pressure from the Daley political machine, organizations like No Games Chicago went grassroots, corner to corner, and spoke out against the Olympic storm of gentrification, tax hikes, and police misconduct. They are a model of resistance in the Obama era. Certainly one reason the United States got the high hat was the lingering bad taste of George W. Bush. The global community, after eight years of sneering contempt from Washington, DC, isn’t ready to rinse with the Obama mouthwash.
But it’s the community activists of Chicago who should feel a tremendously gratified. They–along with the millions of Chicagoans who expressed their trepidation in polls–saved their city. They have every right to say with pride, “That’s the Chicago way!”
As for Barack Obama,he may not be feeling it, but he is the luckiest man alive. Yes, he traveled all the way to Copenhagen and didn’t even get a lousy t-shirt, but he is very fortunate his bid went down like it did. Obama is the first US President to ever appear before the International Olympic Committee and plea for the games. The Games coming to the Windy City would have been an eight-year distraction and political gold for his opponents. Every time an Olympic project came in late and over budget, every time a scandal hit the tabloids, every time a crime was captured on a cell phone camera it would have been “Obama’s Olympic Folly.”
The person who really has egg on his face is Mayor Richard Daley. He wanted to show everyone he was a bigger man–and mayor–than his Daddy, with an Olympic sized stadia to boot. Now expect all the Daley arm-twisting and all the dirty skullduggery in the lead up to both come to light and come home to roost.
Recently Barack Obama criticized planned protests at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh because, as he knew from his Chicago days, “focusing on concrete, local, immediate issues that have an impact on people’s lives is what really makes a difference and…having protests about abstractions [such] as global capitalism or something, generally, is not really going to make much of a difference.”