No Games Chicago is a coalition of social justice activists from across the city who believe that seeking and hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic Games is a terrible waste of precious civic resources and treasure.
This group includes people who have been working for years on building affordable housing, fighting for environmental justice, working on human rights issues, litigating against police torture, pressing for good government reform and organizing independent politics. I count myself in this last category.
They have called for a protest rally and march to shut down the Olympic bid on Thursday, April 2 at Federal Plaza at 5pm. Speakers will include activists from Chicago and Vancouver, the site of the 2010 Winter games. The rally coincides with the arrival of the International Olympic Committee Evaluation Team, who will be touring the city and the proposed venues.
The 2016 committee has raised almost $50 million - including $5 million from the MacArthur Foundation - plus contributions from just about every major private contractor that does business with the city. They have flooded the city with misinformation and a host of feel good events.
The games are being sold to the people of Chicago with a massive, hype machine-fueled litany of promises and claims. The No Games folks' own research shows that the 2016 committee is lying. The games are disasters for host cities. The IOC makes millions, the TV networks make millions and the corporate sponsors hope to sell products and make millions. But it's the tax payers that pick up the bills for security and constructions projects that spiral out of budget, all while the so-called benefits are wildly over stated.
The games organizers often talk about "economic impact" and "lasting legacy" for the games.
The likely impact and legacy will be debt, displacement and diminished public parks.
Consider a few points:
- The city of Vancouver, host of the 2010 Winter games, is facing bankruptcy as their total costs approach $6 billion (security alone is $900 million Canadian).
- The original bid budget for the London 2012 Summer games was 4 billion pounds ($5.9 billion) and is now at 9.3 billion pounds ($13.7 billion) and this "does not include all of the activities on which delivery of the Games and its legacy depends. The acquisition of land for the Olympic Park, the costs of government departments working on Games preparations and legacy planning, as well as costs of improving wider transport links are all outside the budget," according to a April 2008 report from the House of Commons.
-The city of Montreal took 30 years to pay off their debt from hosting the 1976 Summer games, which locals have been calling it "The Big Owe" for decades.
-The Chicago 2016 bid calls for just over $4 billion in construction - this from the administration that brought you the Block 37, Soldier Field, Monroe Street Garage and Millennium Park overruns in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Heck, the 2004 Athens summer games were $5.26 billion over budget - and that was 5 years ago. Who can even begin to guess the Olympian cost overruns 5 and 6 years from now? That's worth repeating - the overrun for the Athens summer games was more that the total estimated cost of Chicago's games.
-Most of the Chicago venues are to be built in our public parks - including spending $31 million for a 20,000 seat tennis venue adjacent to the Jarvis Bird Sanctuary at Montrose - a facility that will result in the destruction of about 100 trees and seriously threaten the nature area that volunteers have worked for decades to create - all at a time when basic services inside the Park District have eroded and fees have gone up.
-Historic Washington Park will pretty much be obliterated and unavailable to neighborhood users for years as an 80,000 seat stadium plus swimming facilities are built.
-You"ll have to shell out between $520 to $1,645 for the Opening Ceremony and pay $28 to $486 for "prime events" at the games, making these events way out reach for most Chicagoans.
-Don't forget the federal government is broke, the state has at least a $9 billion deficit, Cook County is run by buffoons and the city is about $290 million in the hole. The city has closed public schools, health clinics and can't pave our streets (unless you live next to Washington Park, which, the Tribune reported recently, is getting an emergency paving in advance of the IOC Evaluation Team coming here in on April 2). But our horrible financial situation has not prevented our spineless legislators from guaranteeing the 2016 committee $500 million in city money and $250 million in state funds. And the city has committed to picking up the security bill, which for the smaller Vancouver games is over $900 million. And the city has already spent $85 million to acquire the Michael Reese Hospital site. Where is all this money coming from? If it's at hand, then why aren't we using it now to improve and expand essential services?
-No new el lines or extensions of el lines are contemplated for the 2016 games, at least none have been disclosed in the bid documents.
- There's the issue of displacement and the pressure to move poor and working people out of their neighborhoods on the near West and South Sides. Could it be that greedy developers are using the games as a way to seize land and get their projects underwritten with our dollars? That hasn't happened before, right?
-The Games will prove to be the worst disaster to hit our city since the Great Fire. A report by Holy Cross economics professor Victor Matheson, "Mega Events: The effect of the world's biggest sporting events on local, regional and national economies," exposes the lies told to us by the 2016 Olympic committee. They claim the 2016 games will bring in billions. In his report, published in 2006 by the Department of Economics at the College of Holy Cross, Matheson says "Not so." This report is available for download from the Box.com widget on the lower right of our web site. His report concludes with this quote:
"The most important piece of advice that a local government can take regarding mega-events, however, is simply to view with caution any economic impact estimates provided by entities with an incentive to provide inflated benefit figures. While most sports boosters claim that mega-events provide cities with large economic returns, these same boosters present these figures as justification for receiving substantial subsidies for hosting the games. The vast majority of independent academic studies of mega-events show that the benefits to be a fraction of those claimed by event organizers."
"Expensive infrastructure projects undertaken for the Olympics also generally contribute little to long-run economic growth. While the construction of modern airports, highways, and transit systems are vital for economic development, the specialized sports infrastructure required to host an Olympic Games cannot easily be converted to other uses. The so-called Water Cube, the site of Michael Phelps's golden achievements, is an architectural and technological wonder. But after the closing ceremony, Beijing will have little use for a state-of-the-art swimming facility that seats 17,000. Beijing will join good company in wondering what to do with its beautiful but empty venues. Most of the 10 gleaming new stadiums built in South Korea for the 2002 World Cup sit unused today, and Australian economists at Monash University suggest that the "redirection of public money into relatively unproductive infrastructure such as equestrian centers and man-made rapids" has since reduced public consumption by $1.8 billion (in US currency)."
The No Games Chicago organizers have parked a number of studies and links at their web site at http://www.nogameschicago.com so you can read reports and articles on the mess the Olympics have left in other host cities. You can also check out the extensive information compiled by the anti-Olympics organizers in Vancouver and London.
The No Games Chicago crew is calling on all citizens who are fed up with back room deals, using public assets for private gain, the closing of public schools and health clinics and the ongoing neglect of the hard working working class of Chicago to join them on Thursday, April 2 at 5pm in Federal Plaza. They invite you to send a message that the people of Chicago don't want to spend billions on a three week party.