Letters & Comments, September 24, 2009 | Letters | Chicago Reader

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Letters & Comments, September 24, 2009

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Keep the Olympics Out of Our Parks

Judgment Day for the Chicago Olympic bid is now less than two weeks away, and it might now be too late to derail the outrageous and destructive seizure of the very heart of beautiful and historic Washington Park for building the huge proposed Olympic Stadium. This wanton taking of a large tract of dedicated open park space must surely be totally illegal, yet my concerted effort of the past two years to get any public interest or conservation organization to mount a serious legal challenge went unheeded. These "watchdog" groups quietly deplored the big municipal giveaway, but did not go further. In many phone calls made to organizational leadership, one respondent candidly admitted that no one wanted to take the blame for driving the Olympics out of Chicago. It is interesting that the much smaller Children's Museum in Grant Park got a lot more criticism and opposition. The prevalent attitude in our city seemed to be "Olympics for Chicago at any cost," one that is surely borne out by the willingness of the city and state to underwrite even billions in losses. . . .

Even if the Olympic bid is won by Chicago, it is not too late to put a stop to the nefarious plans for Washington Park. There is no good reason why the stadium venue cannot be changed to a much better nonpark location on existing vacant land, i.e., the old industrial clearance area south of 79th Street. That is a potentially beautiful lakeside setting that would offer the unique benefit of lake boat commuter transportation to and from downtown, thus reducing the big burden on surface transit.

The taking of Washington Park sets a terrible precedent because it opens the door to future such diversions. Public interest groups must sue to head off this tragedy! —Charles G. Staples, Chicago

The Olympics: Good or Bad for Tourism?

Re: "The Olympic Myth: A European report concludes that the games do more harm than good for local tourism," by Deanna Isaacs, September 17

You leave out some important factors.The Olympics will bring the will and money to seriously fight crime. A safe environment increases property values, attracts businesses, residents and tourists. —James Reyes

This article raises an important issue—the effect of sporting events on a city. Studies have shown that tax breaks given to professional teams do not pay off in the long run. However, a couple of important points were overlooked.

The problem with Sydney was that a worldwide recession followed those Olympics. Beijing experienced a similar fate (the recession actually started before the Olympics), as did Barcelona (actually it was a jobless recovery in that case). It seems that people who do these studies do not understand global economics.

One should not underestimate the effect of international publicity on tourism. New Zealand experienced a boom in tourism after "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy was released. Photogenic locales will attract more visitors. Dublin and Prague are good examples; they benefited from EU membership. And with a Democrat likely in the White House in 2016, the odds of another recession are slim. . . .—Stephen Schade

I like how you completely ignore the widely-reported "visa problem" that China created, with them dragging their feet on visas and denying a significantly higher than usual number of them ostensibly to prevent protests and to keep crowd control down. This in addition to them much more tightly restricting internal movement between cities during the year building up to the Olympics. You also completely ignore that the earthquake disaster in Sichuan had a chilling effect on travel in China during that time. But hey, don't let the facts confuse you. —ericmathiasen

The Olympics coming to Chicago, on the surface, is a good idea. It will bring jobs, money, and tourism to the city. On the other hand, it will also bring more corruption, with politicians squandering millions of Olympic dollars on their personal trust funds and vanity projects, and money that was originally allocated for neighborhood improvements will, most likely, be wasted. Also, while the downtown has been vastly improved over the years, with such projects as Millennium Park and the museum campus, to name a few, a lot of the neighborhoods still suffer with lack of garbage pickup, filth on the streets, and a mass transit system that is substandard, with bus and train service which I would have to call haphazard, as there are times when you still have to wait up to twenty minutes for a bus or train, and you really have no idea when you are going to get your bus or train to come. All in all, the Olympics would only benefit the wealthy among us, and the rest of us would just watch it on TV, and face the consequences of more traffic and crowds, and less service.—Mitchco

"In Sydney, the 2000 games were followed by a three-year decline in international visitors. Terrorism got most of the blame, but the ETOA notes that the decline was in effect months before the 9/11 attacks, in spite of the broadest tourism campaign ever to accompany the Olympics to that point."

Let's see. What season is it right before 9/11 in Australia? Oh, yeah. Winter.

And, of course, right after the Olympics you are going to see a drop in tourism—everybody came there DURING the Olympics!! It's the LONG TERM effect that is important.—Moon

Pretty good breakdown here: beachwoodreporter.com/column/the_monday_papers_170.php

The author updated the case against with this link: economist.com/world/americas/displayStory.cfm?story_id=14382517

" . . . But already it is clear that the Vancouver Olympics, like most of their predecessors, will not 'break even' without big taxpayer subsidies. Londoners, who are preparing for the much bigger and more expensive summer games two years later, will doubtless be watching with interest." —skeptic

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