I am a fan of the Olympics. I think they’re pretty cool, exposing sports I might not see on a regular basis and bringing together the best in the world for the sports I follow.
When the Olympics were in Los Angeles in 1984, I was going into frouth grade and remember watching every event I could. In 1996 the Olympics were in Atlanta, and I was in college. In 2002, the Olympics were in Salt Lake, and for the first time it dawned on me that I could go to the Olympics and see this amazing stuff in person. Of course that dawned on me in the middle of the Games, which didn’t do me much good.
The Olympics are headed to Vancouver this year, and I have friends who live in Seattle who spend a lot of time in Whistler, near where many events will take place. I determined that I was going to make it to these Olympics. How cool!
Then I started looking into the tickets as they went on sale. And I changed my mind. The prices for non-core sports for early action were astronomical. There was no way I could justify going to more than one event or maybe two. And then there’s the cost of staying there and getting there, and my dream fizzled.
Chicago has been bidding for the 2016 Olympics, and everyone around here is excited. “I back the bid” t-shirts and signs are everywhere. Whole schools have been having assemblies and creating ways to show how much they want the Olympics to be here.
Not so much. Call me a grinch, but when I look at the Games the past few times, there has been all sorts of spending on stadia and housing for athletes and others that has either been beyond a realistic budget, short-changing other dire needs in the area, or both. And Chicago has a lot of needs. They’ve left the cities with massive deficits and then-empty attractions. The traffic has been a nightmare, and in Chicago it already is. And the tickets are unaffordable.
I’ve quietly kept an eye on what’s been going on, and when I saw things like our major expressway (three lanes in most places, and already filled with traffic except at 2am) having one lane dedicated to Olympic athlete traffic, I cringed. When I saw the estimates of a $5 billion cost, I looked around at so many people I know who have no jobs or resources, and I see that money being funneled into short-sighted projects that won’t benefit them — or at best will provide them with a short term job, amidst much waste.
Were the Games more like their roots where the facilities took advantage primarily of what was already in existence, allowed the ordinary people a chance to see world class athletics, and showcased the host city for what it provided rather than dressing it up using dollars it doesn’t have, I’d be thrilled if the Olympics were coming to Chicago.
As it is, I smiled quietly as I headed out of the locker room at the gym this morning, saw the tv on my way, and noticed that Chicago had been eliminated from contention.
My hope is that the city, the state, and the nation will now focus on so many of our larger problems and let Rio handle the circus that now accompanies the Olympics. I’ll happily watch them at home, and then I’ll head out to drive in my usual traffic to my usual destinations, unencumbered by any hoopla caused by the Olympics in my backyard.