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Olympics Mon Aug 24 2009

Olympic Benefits: Made Up

The first two paragraphs of a recent Crain's Chicago Business piece by John Pletz are so juicily wonderful, so delicious, so perfect, that before I quote them for you, I want to give you the opportunity to go to the page itself and look at the picture next to the paragraphs, with local soulless plutocrat civic-minded booster Patrick Ryan and Mayor Daley, one filthy with lucre and the other filthy with power, staring at the words like accusations. Seriously, go there first and read them, then come back. While you're doing that, I'm going to continue working on this Freedom of Information Act request the city's aviation department (more on that later).

Are you back? Okay. For those of you that couldn't tear yourselves away, here's those paragraphs:

Mayor Richard M. Daley's prediction that the 2016 Olympics would give Chicago's economy a $22.5-billion boost vastly overstates the likely benefits of hosting the games, experts say.

"That's crazy," says Victor Matheson, a professor of economics at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts who has studied the economic impact of the Olympics. "Anyone using this $22.5-billion number as justification to vote for the Olympics is being led down the garden path."

Games skeptics like myself have been saying this for years, literally years. There's no solid evidence that hosting the Olympics leads to any long-term economic benefit that is unique to having an Olympics. Particularly when you adjust for the massive costs overruns that have accompanied nearly all of the modern games, and certainly all the games in the new millennium.

Let's sum up the Bid Committee's case: there will be no structural improvements to infrastructure; the city has to promise to cover all debt with taxpayer money; there will be thousands of private paramilitary security on the streets of Chicago for months; certain beaches on the Lakefront, including 31st Street, will be privatized, thousands of luxury condos will be built subsidized by taxpayer money and introduced into a glutted market; and temporary service sector jobs that may just be replacing displaced jobs from business avoiding the city due to Olympic markups.

Why are we considering this again? Oh yeah; "we're" not. The unelected, unaccountable, and non-transparent Bid Committee is.

Disclosure: I was a co-founder of No Games: Chicago.

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