|The 2016 Olympics: Friend or Foe?|
by F. Ned Dikmen,
The competition for the 2016 Olympics has come down to four cities: Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro. Although Madrid is known for being a sophisticated, open city, its difficulties with terrorism may prevent it from winning the opportunity to host the sports contest. Rio de Janeiro’s beauty may have helped bring it to the final four, but the large amount of violence and crime woven into its fabric of life may already have taken it out of the running. Tokyo and Chicago could remain the only true contenders. The rivalry between them comes down to the final months of judging.
If Chicago comes out on top, it could be a huge boon for Illinois’ boaters. The current number of boaters at harbors in Chicago might double to 10,000, or even triple. If the Olympics become part of Chicago’s future, Mayor Richard M. Daley could create the largest congregation of boaters in Chicago. He would most likely see the advantages of increasing access to the land from the water, and construct more harbors.
The mayor would be rewarding an industry that spends between $9.5 billion and $16 billion each year, $80 million of which contributes to Chicago’s economy. This covers everything from the food that boaters purchase and consume on the water, to the sails, bumpers and gasoline they buy to maintain their boats. During the summer, some families spend their weekends in boats on Lake Michigan, increasing both the amounts of time and care they devote to their vessels, and the overall cost of the supplies they will obtain to enjoy them. All of this invigorates the economy. Mayor Daley is thrilled with the expenditures, recognizing the boaters’ financial contributions to his city and to the country, as a whole. Investing in Chicago’s boating industry would be a natural return.
However, a proposal to use Monroe Harbor for rowing at the Olympics has some boaters on edge; they are concerned that it would be disruptive and force them to relocate. There is a different suggestion that would move the rowing competition farther from shore, leaving boats in the inner harbor undisturbed. But this option is unsupported by the city and is unlikely to be enacted. Unfortunately, boaters are reluctant to speak out in favor of the alternative option, fearful that the city of Chicago might retaliate against them; for instance, by preventing them from renewing their leases.
Although bringing the 2016 Olympics to Chicago would clearly benefit boaters, other citizens may find themselves holding mixed bags. Individuals living in Chicago may discover that the city government aims to change many aspects of the city they appreciate every day to prepare it for Olympians and tourists. Mayor Daley may make adjustments to public transit and Soldier Field, and construct an Olympic Village for athletes. As China did for its own Olympics recently, Chicago may attempt to relocate its impoverished, hiding them from the public’s gaze. In addition, the city may take on a large amount of unexpected debt from the cost of funding the competition.
Despite these disadvantages, the Great Lakes Boating Federation would solidly support bringing the 2016 Olympics to Chicago. If climate change is a reality, it has the potential to benefit boating in Chicago. It will stretch the sport’s season from April to November, with 24 days of boating in a season. The Great Lakes Boating Federation would like to work with the Olympic Committee to maximize enjoyment of the boating season. As a hurricane-free region, the Great Lakes are protected from the severe storms that are likely to wreak havoc on areas that are prone to hurricanes. With mayoral support behind it, the 2016 Olympics could not find a better home than Chicago.