Ambivalence about Chicago 2016 Olympic Decision

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By Paul M. Banks

As someone who blogged for the Chicago 2016 Channel, in an effort to help bring the games here, I should be a person who’s fairly certain about what they wanted the outcome to be. On the eve of the big 2016 Olympic announcement, I wasn’t really excited. But I felt like more like the main character in my favorite film “Eight Men Out.” 1919 Chicago White Sox pitcher, and World Series fix participant Eddie Cicotte is alone on the day before he pitches again. He ruminates about everything that’s happened during the crooked Series, and can no longer decide what side of the graft he’s on anymore. Lefty Williams asks him, “what do you think you’ll do tomorrow?”  And he responds that he doesn’t know.

Whether the announcement was Chicago or not, I’ll feel the same- conflicted. Sure, I had a nice little paycheck for what I did, but that quickly dried up months ago. I think the process jaded me, they really had the wrong ideas about how to utilize my talents, and I’m not sure the money was actually worth putting up with the message control, horrible communication and lack of organization and structure they had. It was mostly done through a consultancy firm with a name that always evoked Orwellian eeriness to me.

And what about the cause? The emotional let down of this group making promises to really plug and promote the work of myself and my team, and never come even remotely close to doing so made me less excited about the bid as I went on. If anything, it decreased my enthusiasm for the committee’s efforts, because I started to really question what the committee was doing.

Despite all the hard work we did, they never included us in any of the special fundraisers, parties etc. Sure we got to attend a Michael Phelps press conference at the Hilton Towers, but that was still rather closed off, as we didn’t even get to ask him a question and the person asking him the questions was tp professional journalism what the Pittsburgh Pirates are to winning baseball games.  Despite what they said, they really seemed to want us to be nothing more than PR hacks. The PR profession is mandatory and warranted, but don’t ask a free-thinking journalist to do that job.

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It ended up more an exercise in showing us how far we are away from the inner circle than a chance to bring us closer to it. And that’s a poignant metaphor for what’s really going to happen if the Olympics actually came here. This would not have been for us, the people of Chicago. The money to be made, the rewards to be distributed they always go to a very small number of business and political elites. I’ve read all the economic impact studies, I’ve researched the arguments, pro and con for hosting an Olympics. I’ve even interviewed lots of people involved with the 2002 Salt Lake City games. With all the contradicting data, I arrived back at the same truth before I started that gig:

the Olympics are going to be a wonderful boon to a small, select group of economic elites. And meaningless, or a hindrance to everyone else. 
 
I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get a media pass or even tickets to the games. For the big announcement, I’m actually out in the suburbs. I worked and helping with the bid, yet I was not invited to anything special for the big day. Since the gig ended, I’ve moved on to other things, and more rewarding, better fulfilling and self-benefiting projects. I have lots to think about other than 2016. So I guess I do now know how I’ll feel about the bid: apathy. I’ll have closure about anticipating the 2016 decision long before it’s even announced….And now that it is, meh. Who Cares? The Blackhawks begin their season in one hour.