Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Olympic protesters take up their cause

Anyone who has been reading my commentary published here has figured out by now that I am a supporter of the concept of bringing the Olympic games to Chicago in 2016.

Part of it is that I would enjoy having such a grand spectacle being held within our wonderful city and I don’t understand the small-minded view of people who automatically think “no” when such things are proposed.

YOU WANT TO be in a place where nothing ever comes? Go live in Towanda, Ill.

But a part of me has to admit that I’m admiring the determination of the activists who have devoted significant chunks of their lives in recent months to trying to dump all over Mayor Daley’s dreams of seeing an Olympic flame lit in Washington Park, and world-class athletic events taking place throughout the city.

These people remind me of the hard-core political people in Chicago who actually align themselves with the Republican Party.

Because the city and surrounding suburban county are so heavily Democrat-leaning, anyone who openly calls themselves a Republican in Chicago is doing so because they truly have an ideological leaning that just can’t adapt to the mainstream.

IT’S NOT LIKE the Chicago GOP people get anything in the way of jobs or contracts, or even the satisfaction of seeing their candidates win.

It seems to be the same way with the “No Games Chicago” people. That’s the group that has taken up the cause of speaking out whenever city officials do anything that is intended to promote the idea of the International Olympic Committee awarding the 2016 summer games to Chicago.

They don’t really get paid for their activism. There’s a good chance their work will come to naught, if the IOC decides that the prospect of an Olympics held in the United States offers too much money to pass on.

Their activism is so low-paid that they have taken to asking for donations to help them financially. And because the group does not qualify as a 501c3 organization, none of the donations are tax deductible.

SO THERE’S REALLY no incentive for anyone to give this group a penny, unless you really are so hard-core against the Olympics that you’re willing to throw your money away.

Yet as I wrote before, I can’t help but wonder what makes them tick.

These are the people who traipsed around to all 50 wards to try to confront the Chicago 2016 committee when they held hearings all across the city to try to spread the word that the games would benefit every single neighborhood – even the ones where no events will be held and where few Olympic athlete-type people likely will stay or shop when/if they come to our city some seven years from now.

A part of me wishes these people were more aligned ideologically like me. I think there is potential for great municipal improvements that could be made to ready Chicago for a future Olympiad.

WHILE I WILL agree that it would be nice if the city were willing to make such improvements to its infrastructure to benefit the full-time residents, rather than a batch of athletes who will spend a month or so here seven years from now, I will take improvements under whatever conditions they come about.

I’d rather see these activists who are so dead-set against the Olympics using their time and effort instead to monitor the Olympic organizers’ activities.

Instead of trying to kill the games on the grounds that the cost will be overbearing, work to prevent the cost from becoming overbearing and to make sure that transportation and housing improvements are of a quality that the can be used long-term by Chicagoans for years (if not decades) after the games are history.

Yet I don’t expect them to seriously change their stance. If they read this, they may denounce it as a naïve burst of foolish rhetoric.

CONSIDERING THAT THEY’RE already planning a picket outside of City Hall for next Tuesday (just three days before the actual announcement by the IOC as to which city will get the Olympics), I expect they’re going to keep up the sporting trash talk all the way down to the count.

For all I know, they may already be rehearsing their rhetoric for responding to the IOC’s actions. Criticism if Chicago gets the games, and glee if the city doesn’t.

Of course, I’ll be the first to admit that these people do represent the views of a segment of the Chicago-area population. For all I know, President Barack Obama may very well take a personal hit in his Chicago-area favorable rating if he does wind up going to Copenhagen to try to awe the IOC with his cult of personality.

I know at least one person who would rather see the president sit back and do nothing – my mother. Every time the issue comes up, she tells me she is hoping the city does not get the games because she doesn’t want the worldwide attention on her life-long hometown.


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