Chicago Olympic Bid is Ill-Advised

By Alex Leichenger (Sports Editor, Columnist) [?]

Published: February 24, 2009 and Updated: April 10, 2009
Original LA News Desk Content

The thought of America hosting another Olympics is an exciting one. For Chicagoans, it is even more exciting, since they are one of the four finalists to host the event in 2016. The opportunity to watch the world’s greatest athletes assemble for an inspired two-week period of competition in our home country would be enough to make my summer fulfilling. Unfortunately, the cold reality is that they would not be exciting enough for everyone to justify spending billions of dollars to prepare for them. According to Victor Cha, an international relations professor at Georgetown, the Chicago Olympics would be “a mess.”

Quite simply, having the Olympics in America would turn out to be nothing more than a hassle. The immense meaning that the Games could have elsewhere would be present here for some, but absolutely not for all. To have the Olympics in Chicago would require an unprecedented amount of cash poured into an effort that simply wouldn’t offer enough in return.

In the world of the 21st century, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Olympics are meant for developing countries like China. The 2008 Olympics were a huge boost to China’s economy not just because of Michael Phelps, but because they sparked a previously dormant interest in the Games among the people of the country and continent itself. According to Nielsen.com, over half of the people in Asia tuned in to the Opening Ceremony in Beijing. It created a sense of national and continental pride, one that had been nonexistent before because Asia had only hosted one Olympics in the entire history of the Summer Games, Tokyo in 1964.

In the United States, we have seen the Olympics before. We have hosted them more than any other country. When the Games are in another nation, we have had television sets to watch them on, and we have had the media to provide extensive coverage of them. So for us, the Beijing Games were exciting due to the Michael Phelps factor, not the huge-new-deal factor. And unless there are two or three more Phelpses out there for 2016, we will regret ever getting ourselves involved in another Olympic bid.

The Olympics will not have the same positive effect on the U.S. economy as it could have on the economy of a country such as Brazil, whose capital, Rio de Janeiro, is one of the finalists for the 2016 Games, or India, which will likely bid for the 2020 Games, or even Japan, where Tokyo is currently the front-runner for 2016.

The Olympics have become far more of a political event than an athletic event. Beijing provided evidence, where pleas to free Tibet and to save Darfur were made by onlookers much more often than pleas to LeBron James and Kobe Bryant to secure a gold medal in basketball. This is not a bad thing at all; it is just the reality of today.

Another reality today is that of terrorism. If Athens had to spend nine figures on its security budget in 2004, then what will the U.S. have to spend? We might not be talking stimulus-package money here, but it is going to require quite a few billion dollars to ensure our safety during the Games. To compensate for the exorbitant preparation budget, the Games themselves might have to bring in enough checks to layer the entire state of Illinois.

Expecting a massive economic draw from an Olympics in Chicago is downright foolish. They will not generate unprecedented interest in a country that has seen plenty of the Olympics already, and they will not generate the same interest in Asia and in the rest of the world that a new host country would.

The Olympics could have the success of Beijing in densely populated India, where there are a billion people who have never experienced them in their home country. But no matter how much tradition the Olympics bring to America, it will not be enough to match the expenditures required to carry the Games out.

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  • Gabe, on 02/24/2009, said:

    Nice article!

    While I agree with many of your points, I feel that there are a couple that remain unaddressed.

    If the Olympic games were to come to Chicago, one of things that it will do is create JOBS which is something we are in dire need of. One could argue that we need jobs now and by 2016 it might not be as critical, but I believe that it still could help with unemployment.

    Finally, while I believe you are probably right in regards to the economic outcome of the Olympics in the U.S., I am not fully convinced. I believe that America is a very nationalist country and would gladly go nuts over the Olympics. Exactly what basis do you have for the decreased enthusiasm for the Olympics in the US?

    According to NBC, the company responsible for bring the Beijing Olympics to America, they had a viewership this past summer of 214 million, which is up from the Athens Olympics with a viewership of 209 million. Compare that to Great Britain, which had a viewership of 40 million, and I would say that America is enthusiastic about the Games. The top 5 viewed events on American television has all been the Olympics.

    Just a couple of my thoughts. :)

  • Alex (author), on 02/25/2009, said:

    While I respect your viewpoints Gabe, I have a rebuttal to your main argument about America being a nationalistic country. You say that 214 million people watched the Games in the US while only 40 million watched in Great Britain. However, you neglected to mention that Britain also has 240 million fewer people than the US. According to your figures, there was only a 5% difference in viewership in US and Britain. Besides, my point is that not just America, but developed European countries like Britain as well, are not the best hosts anymore. I bet the 2012 London Games are less exciting than the Beijing Games.

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