Sunday, July 26, 2009
2016 Summer Olympics in Chicago May Have Drawbacks, But I Say Go For It!
When people think of Chicago, the bitter cold and the uncompromising winds are probably two of the first things that come to mind. In a sports context, the mindset isn't much different. It's hard to avoid thinking about those late-season Bears home games in sub-10 degree temperatures. And while these statements ring true for over half the year, Chicago is actually an amazing place to spend a summer and possibly even a spring or fall too, depending on the type of person.
It's hard to convince people that Chicago can be easily mistaken for an oceanfront beach city June-August. I mean, I was over at North Ave. Beach several weeks ago with some friends, and it seemed like your typical college spring break in Panama City. Besides the beach, the city has several handfuls of unique areas with great sites, acclaimed restaurants, and stunning social scenes. People from Chicago or at least familiar with it will tell you that there may not be a better place to spend a summer. The city's versatility during these months is unparalleled to be completely frank. So yes...for the better part of each year, the city's weather could be considered miserable by some and admittedly mediocre by the more tolerant others. I'll even admit that as each winter approaches, I'm less and less enthusiastic about calling this city my home. But if we're going to discuss the summer in Chicago, then you might as well just call it Heaven on Earth.
What I'm getting at here has to do with Chicago's bid to play host for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The city has reached finalist status in their hopes to secure the world's most fantastic sporting event. And I'm here to say, why not? Now, let me start by saying that the weather, as I discussed above, is absolutely not the sole reason for my argument. It's a big part, but I was simply trying to illustrate the fact that Chicago's reputation often times suffers as a result of the awful winter months. But the summer in Chicago would leave every Olympic spectator satisfied.
Above that, there are certainly concerns regarding the economy, accessibility, and even losing nostalgic or historic parts of the city...all of which are legitimate. I've read a lot lately about the mission of Chicago 2016 (the official committee dedicated towards the bid) and their plans moving forward. I have to say that they successfully answered a lot of questions that I had and I'm sure others had.
First of all, the city's infrastructure and public transportation system is probably the nation's second best behind New York City. With about a dozen different commuter train lines going from various suburban areas into the city, the access to/from the outer edges of the Chicago area is superb. Then once you're in the city, the extensive subway system offers nearly 10 different routes accessing every part of the greater metropolitan area. I will say that highway-wise, the city always seems to be lost; not because of the routes. But because the roads always seem to be under a great deal of construction...at least in the last 5-10 years. Hey, if that means that we can expect a bunch of flawless roads in the next few years, then great! Somehow I don't think that is the case, though. They'll take you wherever you need to go around the city and its suburbs, but the question is how long it will take to do it.
Economically, Chicago 2016 says that the impact won't be at all negative, but rather positive. The city will not require much tailoring because all of the property and many of the venues needed are already in hand. Unlike Beijing, no one will be displaced from their home and the money going towards the bid right now is through entirely private sources. The relatively small amounts of construction that will take place if the bid goes through would be able to be put to use after the Games are over. Now I understand that this information is coming from a source that can do no wrong in their own eyes, but it all makes sense when laid out. Sure, the acquisition of the Games would come at a cost, but if things went as planned, the city of Chicago and the U.S. as a whole would enjoy an economic boost after all of the revenue.
The other issue that may turn people off, especially residents of Chicago, is the risk of losing nostalgia. Would the installation of Olympic villages and complexes ruin landmarks? Or would the high influx of spectators trample your everyday favorite places? Who knows. Personally, I think as far as people go, things could be fixed after the Games if something happens. And it seems that much of the visual stuff installed for the Games would be temporary. So I'm not too worried about that side of things...but then again you can never predict the amount of people the event will attract and the amount of aesthetic elements that go into the setup. After all, the Beijing Olympics set the bar pretty high in those respects and at the end of the day, the name of the game is "upping the ante."
Look, the concerns circling around the Olympic bid are always going to be there, but in the end, you just have to ask yourself if this is overall a good thing for the city of Chicago. Do the positives outweigh the negatives? I say they do. You've got a iconic city with diversity, culture, landmarks and history. You've got the necessary arenas and stadiums with all of the professional and collegiate teams in the area. You've got an enormous body of water in Lake Michigan, that might as well be considered the "Ocean of the Midwest" to accommodate the aquatic sports. And you have an infrastructure and public transportation system that is up to snuff in terms of being able to handle a heavy dose of visitors.
As a native of the Chicago area and a longtime lover for all it has to offer, I think over anything else, it would just be pretty damn cool to have the Olympic Games here. You can talk about all of the logistics and risks, but I say from a simple point of view that the idea of having the Games in such a classic American city is exciting...and over the summer? Ohhhh baby!
In 55 days, we'll find out what city the International Olympic Committee tabs as their 2016 host. Madrid, Toyko, Rio de Janeiro, or Chicago? I certainly hope that the latter comes out as the winner. Yes, it's my hometown, but more because of the fact that I'd like the world to see what a great city it is...not in the winter...in the summer!
To support the 2016 Chicago Olympic Bid, just visit their website here. Let's make the 2016 Olympics an American one!