Group argues against Chicago's Olympic bid

February 1, 2009 7:32:33 AM PST
A new group met Saturday night making the argument that Chicago shouldn't be competing to host the 2016 Olympic Games. The group claims Mayor Daley's quest for the Olympics diverts money and manpower from solving Chicago's other problems.

The group calls itself No Games Chicago, and its early members include many who have fought city hall before. No Games Chicago is actually made up of members of many other groups with gripes about everything from access to affordable housing to education and mass transit.

The event Saturday night was evidence that some community activists hope to use Chicago's Olympic bid to draw attention to their causes, and perhaps, find new support from city hall.

"We don't want to be displaced. We don't want to be gentrified," one speaker said to those gathered at the meeting.

The meeting was a recruitment drive of sorts for Chicago's 'anti-Olympic' team.

"The general consensus is we want the IOC to know that people in Chicago don't want the Olympics. We have other priorities in this city," said the group's Bob Quellos.

Among the nearly 175 people gathered were affordable housing activists, critics of the mayor's reform efforts in the Chicago Public Schools, and those who say the city's mass transit system is an international embarrassment.

With these other problems, they ask, why should Chicago's attention -- and potentially money -- be diverted to the Olympic Games?

"Basically, they're telling you how to run your city, and they're doing it at your expense," said author and Olympic opponent Christopher Shaw.

Shaw became so disgusted with Vancouver's efforts to host the 2010 winter games that he wrote a book about what he sees as the myths and realities for the Olympic Games.

"Groups were told they'd get goodies, union jobs and money would flow from heaven. There'd be no environmental destruction, the greenest games ever. We'd make money, not lose money. Those things, it's become obvious, are untrue," Shaw said.

"Clearly people have their concerns," Chicago 2016's Arnold Randall.

Randall is a former city commissioner who now works on the Olympic bid. Although Chicago 2016 was not invited to participate in Saturday night's forum, he and several Olympic supporters were in the audience attempting show Chicago's bid team is listening.

"2016 is concerned about those issues. We support affordable housing and all the issues being raised, but 2016 is not the entity that's going to make those things happen," said Randall.

Chicago's bid team walks a fine line, on one hand promising the Games will create affordable housing, jobs and opportunity, while on the other, not suggesting that city hall's efforts are solely focused on the 2016 competition.

A poll taken last year showed Chicago's bid enjoyed the support of 72 percent of local residents. Maintaining that support, even in a terrible economy and city budget crisis, will be hugely important in the coming months.