How we lost those games | Bleader

How we lost those games


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When the delegation representing Chicago pitched this city's bid for the 2016 Olympics to the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland in June 2009, Tom Tresser was one of three local naysayers who showed up too. As Tresser blogged at the time, they had a "simple message" for the IOC: "“Chicago does not want or deserve the 2016 Olympic Games.”

That message doesn't sound so simple. The idea that our city didn't "deserve" the Olympics supposes that the games were a treat — like angel food cake and ice cream — the city hadn't earned because it didn't do its chores. But if the games were a treat, why wouldn't the city have wanted them? And do cities collectively want or not want anything?

But here's the message the IOC actually got from Tresser: Chicago can't handle the games because it's a mess, and a lot of Chicagoans would rather clean up the mess than put on a show. Or as Tresser said in that same blog post: "We're broke....We're corrupt....We're crumbling....We're mad as hell!"

My own recollection of 2009 is that ambivalence was the most common attitude toward the Olympics. But the ambivalent never decide anything. Tresser — the organizer of No Games Chicago (and last year's Green Party candidate for Cook County president) — is an activist, and he got the result he was after. That October in Copenhagen, the IOC eliminated Chicago in its first round of voting. Rio wound up with the games.

Tresser emailed me the other day: "I think the story of who we were and what we did and why is pretty compelling. But I'm apparently the only person who thinks so because I haven't been able to get any journalist, academic institution or policy think tank interested in looking at the story of the bid and the opposition to it."

To tell the story himself, Tresser has assembled an e-book, ""Dear Members of the International Olympic Committee - Emails From the No Games Chicago Campaign," and made it available online. It's a 285-page pdf you can "purchase" for nothing and then download by clicking here.

"I'm putting this book together because there is no record of the opposition to Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics," Tresser's e-book begins. "The Chicago media supported the bid with its endorsement and its money and failed to do its due diligence before lending its collective voice and authority to the bid. A few citizen efforts to oppose the bid; No Games Chicago was the most organized, persistent and effective. Our story has not been told."

He's right. Whatever you think of the Olympic bid — but especially if you supported it — I'd expect you to agree that its failure should be understood. It's interesting to read that No Games Chicago led off its "Book of Evidence" to the IOC with a Ben Joravsky column from the Reader, "An Open Letter to the IOC — Why You Don't Want to Give Chicago the Olympics."

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