Mayor Daley has famously only lost four votes in the City Hall rubber-stamp room called the City Council, but the residents of Chicago are less sanguine about the economic benefits of hosting the Olympics.
The Second City is weary after months of recession and Illinois corruption scandals, and angry about everything from rising taxes to deepening potholes. The city is especially skeptical of Mr. Daley’s Olympic push: After pledging Chicago wouldn’t pay a cent should the Games lose money, the mayor later said Chicago would cover any potential shortfall.
Mr. Daley, re-elected in 2007 with more than 71% of the vote, now has a career-low approval rating of 35%, according to a recent Chicago Tribune poll. In public meetings, citizens rail that he has become isolated, thin-skinned and autocratic. Only 47% of Chicagoans support hosting the Games.
Mr. Daley, asked about his falling approval ratings and concerns over cost overruns and corruption, shakes his head.
“You have to have vision,” the 67-year-old mayor said in an interview this month as he shuttled between appearances in the back seat of his black sedan. “You can’t start second-guessing yourself.”
Mr. Daley says the Games will transform Chicago and update its international image from a meat-and-manufacturing hub to the Paris on the Prairie its planners envisioned. Chicago’s Olympic committee has said the Games will generate tens of thousands of jobs and a $13.7 billion economic boost for Chicago. Last week, Anderson Economic Group LLC estimated that spending in Chicago would be more modest, around $4.4 billion.
University of Chicago sports economist Allen Sanderson is more skeptical still. “When you say the word ‘billions,’ special-interest groups start salivating,” he said. “This is Chicago, so yeah, I expect some cost overruns.”
[Click to continue reading Mayor Places Olympian Bet on Chicago’s Bid for Games – WSJ.com]
The Olympics last for what, two weeks? But preparation has to start seven years in advance? Yikes.
Apparently, Chicago has integrated without much notice:
As other Midwestern cities emptied, Chicago grew. In the past 10 years, it added parks and trees, luxury residential skyscrapers and 36 million square feet of commercial development — nearly twice as much as Los Angeles. Between 1989 and 2008, Chicago’s median household income rose 2.7%, in 2008 dollars. Over the same period, incomes in Rust Belt cities Detroit, Cleveland and Indianapolis shrunk 11% or more.
By 2008, Chicago had become the eighth-most integrated global city in the world, according to Foreign Policy magazine, behind Singapore and ahead of Seoul.
And Obama is going to personally persuade IOC officials in Copenhagen after all, for some reason.
Less than two weeks ago, President Obama lamented that he was too busy to go to Denmark to lobby for Chicago’s bid to host the Olympics. “I would make the case in Copenhagen personally,” he said, “if I weren’t so firmly committed to making real the promise of quality, affordable health care for every American.”
Evidently, his commitment to health care is no longer quite so time consuming. Mr. Obama announced Monday that he would fly to Copenhagen this week after all to lobby the International Olympic Committee for the 2016 Summer Games.
Mr. Obama changed his mind and decided to take a gamble no other American president has taken at the urging of his close friend and senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, who has been deeply involved in promoting Chicago’s bid. He hopes to trump the presence in Copenhagen of his counterparts from rival countries seeking the games — Brazil, Japan and Spain — and duplicate the success that Tony Blair of Britain and Vladimir V. Putin of Russia have had in recent years by personally lobbying for their nations’ bids.
Moreover, aides noted that it would be a relatively small time investment. Mr. Obama will leave Thursday evening and fly overnight, arriving in Copenhagen just in time to join Chicago’s final presentation Friday morning, when he and the first lady will address the committee. He returns to Washington on Friday afternoon.
[Click to continue reading White House Memo – In Pitch for Games, a Gamble for Obama – NYTimes.com]
I don’t buy the argument that the President can only perform one task in a day. Maybe GWB was limited that way, but most modern politicians are adept enough to chew gum and walk at the same time. Still, I question whether the Olympic Games are worth wasting a President’s limited agenda upon.
Click here for some other posts discussing the 2016 games