By Tom Tresser - 24 June 2009
On Monday morning, June 15, three people stepped off the train at the Lausanne train station. Three people had travelled seven zones from the west to come to the home of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to deliver a simple message. “Chicago does not want or deserve the 2016 Olympic Games.”
I was one of those three travelers. We were three volunteers from No Games Chicago. a coalition of diverse activists from across the city who have worked a wide range of social justice issues over the years. Members of our group have worked on affordable housing, human rights, neighborhood economic development, open lands, protecting parks, environmental justice and good Government reform.
We came to Switzerland by going into debt - having had the air fare donated. We believed this was something we had to do and we’ll worry about repaying the debt later.
The three-member No Games Chicago Delegation consisted of :
• Martin Macias Jr., a youth organiser for the Chicago Environmental Justice Coalition, and Comite 10 de Marzo, an Immigrant Rights organisation. He is also a media reform activist.
• Tom Tresser, an educator and activist and former actor and producer. He is a co-founder of Protect Our Parks, which fights the privatisation of public space.
• Rhoda Whitehorse, a mother and grandmother who has lived in Chicago for 40 years and is a former public school teacher.
We have been the only organisation in the entire city to critically examine the Olympic bid and the impact hosting the Games would have on Chicago. There has been no independent research, no large scale public debate or examination of the negatives of hosting the Games from prior host cities. We launched our efforts on January 31 with a public forum at the University of Illinois attended by 250 people.
We believe the city should be spending its resources and brainpower on more important priorities, such as building more schools – not closing them; expanding health care – not closing public health clinics; creating more parks – not destroying the ones we have; and working on economic development programs that benefit the many – not pushing giant construction projects that benefit the Mayor’s minions.
We came to Switzerland to present a “Book of Evidence” to the members of the IOC. This 162-page bound book consisted of photocopies of newspaper articles, columns and reports documenting our four major objections to Chicago hosting the 2016 Games:
(1) Lack of finances – We’re broke
America is broke. Illinois is $13 billion (£7.9 billion) in debt. Our city is about $300 million (£183 million) in the red. Just a few days before we came to Switzerland, Mayor Richard Daley announced he was laying off 1,000 employees of the Chicago Public Schools AND 1,500 city workers. The city has closed public schools, health clinics and cut back service in our parks.
(2) Lack of competence – We’re corrupt
Every major construction project the city tackles goes way over budget and experiences long construction delays. This is because the Mayor has placed his cronies in the top positions of every agency and department. The city is run as a private ATM (cash machine) for the Mayor’s family and a few other politically connected families and their friends. A close ally of the Mayor was recently indicted, this elected official, Alderman Isaac Carothers, wore a wiretap for Federal authorities for a year! It is highly likely that any construction project the city undertakes for the Olympics will experience overruns and delays.
(3) Lack of infrastructure – We’re crumbling
Our city is dire need of repairs. Our mass transit system can barely handle the load of moving our citizens around as it is. There is no way we’ll be able to handle the hundreds of thousands of Olympic visitors. Our roads are so full of potholes and the city so far behind in attending to them that citizens have actually taken to mixing tar and filling the potholes themselves!
(4) Lack of public support – We’re mad as hell!
Despite what the IOC has been told – the people of Chicago DO NOT WANT THE GAMES TO COME HERE. When they were asked in a poll commissioned by the Chicago Tribune if they support using tax funds for the Games, 75 per cent said NO. When we were in Switzerland Mayor Daley, who was also in Lausanne as part of the Chicago 2016 delegation, announced he would sign the Whole City Contract if awarded the Games. This means that the city would sign a blank check to secure, construct and operate the Olympics. This is not news for the other three candidate cities, as their national Governments have pledged to cover all costs as needed. The US Government is forbidden by law to make such an assurance. The Mayor knew he would have to make this assurance to the IOC but he did while in Switzerland. If he had hoped to avoid controversy, he did not succeed. The city has been broiling with front page headlines, editorials, angry letters from citizens and an uprising from Aldermen who feel they have been betrayed by Mayor Daley.
On Tuesday, when our City Council next meets, Alderman Manny Flores will introduce legislation that will cap Chicago’s exposure to the Olympic games at $500 million (£305 million). He says he is a supporter of the Olympic idea and is willing for the city to spend up to $500 million (£305 million) on them – but not a penny more.
So No Games Chicago has succeeded in raising the only voice of opposition to the idea of staging the 2016 Olympics in Chicago. We’ve mobilised people from across the city to speak up. And now our elected officials are finally seeing the light and are starting to say “NO!” to the 2016 Olympics.
Tom Tresser is the communications co-ordinator of No Games Chicago. He can be contacted at [email protected].
Mayor Daley and the 2016 committe have used fear, lies and
intimidation to cram their Olympic dream down the throats of
There are a group of Chicagoans who stood up to Mayor Daley, and
his 2016 Organization'
By Code Warrior
26 June 2009 at 03:46am
Thanks, Tom, for addressing the emperor's wardrobe malfunction.
For a while, you and the No Games crew were lonely voices in the
wilderness. As a result of your advocacy, people have been
educated and emboldened to do their own research and find their
own voices. This is democracy at its best.
The City Council is now going to hire an independent expert to
review the pros and cons of the Chicago bid, and put stop gap
measures in place to limit the City's exposure. One would have
expected them to have done this two years ago before they wrote
the blank check, but I suppose this is a start.
By Valerie F. Leonard
26 June 2009 at 03:54am
Excellent article on the real issues for Chicago and the
By Chicago Health
27 June 2009 at 18:07pm
I definately dont think Chicago should bid for the Olympic
I'm a Paralympian and in 1984, I was selected to compete in the
Paralympics in Champaign, Illinois.
I remember the disappointment as an athlete when we were told
that Illinois had insufficient funds to run the games at the last
minute. The result was the wheelchair athletes competed in
England and the other athletes Los Angeles. The Games in Illinois
Last thing we want is another fiasco in a city that has financial
Forget it Chicago and put your own house in order before you
start inviting the athletes of the world. They deserve the best
and I for one dont think given the states previous support that
you should be given the chance to host the games.
By Paralympian 10 - Josie
27 June 2009 at 21:30pm
Few Chicagoans want these games, and no Chicagoans want to pay
for it! As a city, we are BROKE! No Olympics in Chicago.
30 June 2009 at 00:45am
scew wut some geezers say, let the olypmics be in chi town
By ur mom
10 July 2009 at 22:38pm