Saturday, April 14, 2007

Lord of the Rings

You have to give credit to Mayor Daley - when he puts his mind to something, he doesn't mess around. The latest example is Chicago's selection as the USOC candidate for the 2016 Olympics.

When the idea was first floated months ago, several people thought that it was simply a means of taking attention away from other, less favorable, items competing for media attention. But as time moved on, and the presentation team and ideas coalesced, the seriousness of the Mayor's intentions became more evident.

Now whether or not Chicago actually getting the games is a good thing is a legitimate subject for debate. On one hand, it could be not only a spectacular experience for Chicagoans and visitors alike, but a catalyst for developing lagging areas of the City in an exponential version of what the Democratic Convention did for portions of the West Loop and surrounding environs.

The flip side is that it could be a budget-buster leaving taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars (see London and Beijing).

Conventional wisdom is stating that the odds of Chicago getting the games are a long shot, to say the least, with Rio de Janeiro and Madrid appearing to be the leading contenders. But as the old axiom goes, 'make no small plans'.

One thing is essential - the drive toward getting the games must be done with an openness not usually seen in Chicago projects. Red flags have already been raised for many watchdogs with the late disclosure that the City (read 'Chicago taxpayers') was going to have to act as a surety in the event the games lost money. Even though this fact had been know for quite a while, it was not made public until City Council action was necessary to ratify the reality.

The stakes are too high, and the potential for public exposure too great, for any attempts at playing hide the ball with any material aspects of the bid.

But if things are done right, (and looking at the semblage of people put together to prepare the City's proposal, the talent is there is do things right), win or lose, Chicago can further solidify its standing as a true world-class city.

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