As promised, I had an open mind last night when I went to the Chicago Olympic committee’s community meeting at North Park University.
I listened to Chicago 2016 chairman Patrick Ryan, president Lori Healey, and venue director Doug Arnot make their case for committing untold billions to Mayor Daley’s games.
But sorry–they lost me when they claimed that providing recreational opportunities for underprivileged children in low-income neighborhoods was their primary motivation for staging the games.
I know that Chicago’s recreational sports programs are hurting. Unless your family is wealthy enough to pay for private lessons or clubs, you’re not going to get in the game. The state of Park District and grammar school baseball, football, swimming, track, tennis, and soccer — just to name a few sports — is abysmal. So yes, we need to find more funding for sports programs.
But let’s not fool ourselves. Hosting the games is about a lot of things — doling out contracts, making money, taking care of friends, building stuff, luring tourists to town, basking in the international limelight, feeding one man’s ego. Those with good contacts will probably make good money.
But it’s most definitely not about helping underprivileged kids, as the machinations with the Douglas Park swimming pool clearly show. If Mayor Daley and his minions want to create sports opportunities for poor kids in the inner city, they should take the $40 million to $50 million they’re spending on the Olympic bid and use it to build some new facilities and hire some new coaches — right now!