I’m just gonna come out and say this: I wanted Chicago to win the 2016 Olympic bid so badly. Yes, I cared even more about this than when London was in the running for the 2012 games and seen as it has been my hope that the games would come somewhere near me since I was small I can tell you that I wanted London to win its contest a whole lot. Last time I got lucky and the victory tasted sweet. This year, not so lucky. Chicago came last of the four possible cities in the contest for this great honor and quite frankly I, like many people, was SHOCKED… and so very disappointed. LAST?
Chicago is (allow me to sneak in the expected Frank Sinatra reference here) my kind of town. It pains me to say this given my baseball loyalties, but I even prefer it to New York. I often like to joke that Chicago is like New York except chilled out a bit and with a larger dose of fun. I believe, mostly because of its size, New York like London can be a little impersonal and overwhelming. I LOVE it, but I find it kinda hard to relax. I doubt I would ever want to live in Manhattan. After a few days I’d be so ready to get out of there and recover from what feels like sensory overload from the city that never stops.
Chicago is not like that. I love the vibe when I visited 2 years ago now I found the people so welcoming and friendly. They took the time to look me in the eyes and ask me where I came from how I liked their city and even threw in a few “thanks for coming out to see us.” Overall, I got such a sense of hospitality. Now, you might or might not know that Gadget Guy is from there so I will admit this whole feeling welcomed and at home may have had a lot to do with having friends over there to show me around as opposed to having to go in on my own tourist style. I still believe the town has something special and the people here are FUN and have a great sense of humor, although the insane bias of the place towards the Chicago Cubs has me a little puzzled… like guys, there’s a second team here ya know. Those White Sox ain’t too bad. I mean, they have actually won it all THIS CENTURY… but anyways I digress. The architectural history of this lakeside city gives it a truly jaw dropping skyline, not to mention the flowers, trees and general greenness squeezed into every space it seems at times. Do you know they have a beach here too… with palm trees? I’ve seen it! The place looks GOOD and if you don’t believe me, take a car down Lake Shore Drive. You’ll see.
So why do I care? Like I said, I love the city. In fact I’ve spent most of the two years since I got back trying to figure out when I can go again and rather sad I never went sooner. It’s safe to say that internationally this gem is somewhat overlooked. It doesn’t have the same destination status of New York, L..A. or even Florida. I truly believe this is a mistake and that the city is capable of hosting a fantastic games which would put Chicago and all its charm firmly on the tourist map for years to come, not to mention if the Games showed up in the Windy City I would move heaven and earth to be there and soak up that atmosphere.
I’ve heard a lot of theories as to why the result was so shocking, why Chicago got ditched in the first round. Of course we will never know, but it may have been some flaw in the bid, some concerns about money, people love to blame whether it be Chicagoans blaming Mayor Daley or Republicans clamoring from the rooftops that this yet an other Obama disaster. Whatever. Sometimes it’s nobody’s fault. Maybe Rio really did have a stronger case and you have to admit that the Olympics going to South America for the first time is pretty cool.
I’m disappointed with another issue and these are the stories that were emerging from the city that public opinion was so against the games that people were actually burning Chicago flags. Seriously. I don’t understand these anti-Olympic feelings. Yes, I get that the games cost money LOTS of money, but I don’t buy the argument that this is just not the “right” time. I suspect that actually hosting the games is kind of like having a child: there never is a “right” time. You do it because you want to and you make it work. Yes, we’re in a financial downturn, sure, but 2016 is 7 years away. 7 years. A lot can happen in that time, so Chi-town you’ll get no sympathy from this British girl given that London won the games BEFORE this financial implosion and we have 3 years now to figure something out. Do you hear us bitching or throwing the toys out the pram and refusing because we suddenly think this REALLY ISN’T the right time for us? NO. Because hosting the games is an honor. It’s a privilege to welcome champions and citizens for all over the world to your home, to be a part of the Olympic legacy of hope, peace and healthy competition is a once in a life time chance. It’s pretty darn special.
Yeah, I know traffic will be HELL. I know the crowds will be a major disruption to your lives and probably would make living downtown kinda crap for anyone who can’t afford to take time out from daily life just because the Olympics roll into town… BUT it’s not forever. It’s 2 weeks. 14 DAYS. Suck it up already.
I worry that the international reputation of the town has only suffered because of this “not in my backyard” attitude and I can’t help feeling this type of thinking is a little short sighted. To be quite honest, it’s not what I expected form the people of the Midwest who made me feel so welcomed. You kind of came off grumpy and unsupportive and at the end of the day, much though it saddens me, perhaps a town where this disapproving voice is so loud, doesn’t deserve the games. How sad.
Congratulations Rio. See you in 2016!!