The looks on the faces of hundreds of Chicagoans gathered at the Thompson Center on Oct. 2 said it all: dejection, disappointment and despair.
As their waving of Chicago 2016 placards was replaced by the somber discarding of them, the city of big shoulders was collectively looking for a shoulder to cry on.
On the one hand, the fourth place finish for Chicago (behind Tokyo, Madrid and winner Rio) was a shattering rejection of a city whose three-year long campaign was over in the fashion like so many Chicago Cubs seasons.
On the other hand, it was proof that the world has taken notice of the beauty of our fair city, but unimpressed by our shady political maneuvering.
In the same year that saw Chicago resident Barack Obama take the presidential office in our country, we’ve also seen political scandals like former governor Rod Blagojevich’s continuing idiocy, Roland Burris’ tarnished senatorial ascension and the appointment of under qualified Chicago Public School President Ron Huberman, who was overseeing a “doomsday plan” of the city’s transit system just over a year ago.
It also couldn’t have helped that our primary ambassador for the games was Mayor Richard Daley, never a great orator to begin with, but his list of alleged corruption, including the infamous bulldozing of Meigs Field, is fairly substantial.
President Obama, wife Michelle, and Oprah Winfrey put in a valiant effort to sell the city. But their rosy portrayal of Chicago probably seemed more like windy city hot air to an Olympic committee that knew better.
Obama, still looking for his first major political victory as president, was criticized by some for the city’s failure to secure the games and while I disagree that it was an embarrassment to his administration, I do wonder if he knew how strongly Rio was favored to win the bid prior to the trip.
Along with the political ramifications of the bid were the socioeconomic.
In a city that can’t fix its education system, transit system, potholes from last winter, crime in schools, statewide debt or create jobs was it really practical to spend so much effort on chasing the games when so much else needs to be done?
According to a Chicago Tribune poll released in September, 47 percent of Chicagoans were in favor of the bid and 45 percent against, which, within the margin of error was an even split.
I, like many opponents of the bid, questioned why our government (including bid support from nearly every Cook County Board member) would invest so much time into it when they should be working on legislation to assure that the abysmal fate of Derrion Albert is not repeated again.
And while we will never know whether the rumors were true about an Olympics in Chicago being a mere “boondoggle for the rich,” as political commentator George Will put it, it doesn’t say much for the city’s trust in government when that was the predominant concern from West Siders attending the town hall meeting at the Garfield Park Refectory regarding the games last month.
Nevertheless, now that it is finally over, I want to see if our lawmakers return to their jobs of serving the people of this city without self-interest clouding their motives.
Chicago is a city known for its inability to win in October, but if the politicians do not do their part to fight for the city when the Olympics are not at stake, we cannot let them win in November.