Olympic ‘nopes’ beat out hope in Chicago

Dreams of hosting the 2016 Olympics were dashed for many Chicagoans. But for others, the news was welcome.
The announcement that Chicago, Illinois, will not host the 2016 Olympic Games took the hopeful wind out of many in the Windy City.

But for almost half of the city’s dwellers, the International Olympic Committee’s decision was winning news. A spokeswoman for No Games Chicago, a grass-roots organization opposed to hosting the Olympics, said she was “relieved” by the vote Friday in Copenhagen, Denmark. Chicago’s Olympic fever, spotty as it was, broke abruptly when the city was the first of four final contenders to be knocked out of the running. The prospective host cities had been whittled down to four finalists — Chicago; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Tokyo, Japan; and Madrid, Spain. The bid went to Rio de Janeiro, making it the first South American city to host the Olympic Games. Chicago had been seen as a front-runner in recent days, especially after it sent to Copenhagen America’s biggest guns — President Obama and his popular wife, Michelle — for a last-minute sales pitch. But a poll taken by the Chicago Tribune and CNN affiliate WGN revealed in early September that 45 percent of the city residents didn’t want the Olympic Games. And 84 percent of Chicagoans objected to the idea of public money being used to support the effort. Earlier this week, about 250 Olympic-bid protesters gathered in front of City Hall, WGN reported. A sign in the crowd read: “Have the audacity of nope.”

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Many who gathered for the bid slapdown were affiliated with No Games Chicago, which sent three delegates to Copenhagen to state their case. After the vote, however, spokeswoman Francesca Rodriguez said No Games Chicago is “in no way taking any pleasure in this” and feels “sympathy” for those who are disappointed. “In reality, Chicagoans who were for the Games and those who were against them were committed to the same goal: Working hard for what they thought would be best for the city of Chicago in the coming decades,” she said. “We’re glad that the city won’t now be burdened by the distraction of the Olympics at the expense of improving Chicago’s schools, transportation, parks and the numerous other public policy initiatives on which the city needs to be focused.” Those who believe the Olympics can bring lasting change to a city — beyond the spike in economic activity during the event — are often misguided, suggested economist Rob Baade of Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois. “There is no reason to expect that the Olympics, or any mega-event, is going to induce a sustainable boost in the economy,” he said. “The cost overruns are pretty legendary. Costs are generally understated and the gains overstated.” One Web site set up to rally against bringing the Olympic Games to town relied as much on humor as it did reason. Its name: Chicagoans for Rio 2016. The site showcased unflattering head-to-head comparisons, such as “Naked people dancing” vs. “Chubby people eating.” The increasing budget deficit in Chicago was contrasted with a $0 total for Rio. “If you’re a Chicagoan, Rio’s budget deficit does not matter,” the site said. “It would be exciting to host the Olympics here in Chicago. But you know what would be even better Rio de Janeiro,” the site announced. “Just let Rio host the 2016 Olympics. We don’t mind. Honest.” Wish granted.