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September 08, 2009

Chicago council to sign off on Olympics blank check

The great Chicago Olympic contract hullabaloo looks like it's ending with a whimper, not a bang: A Chicago city council committee has voted this afternoon to approve signing the official Olympic contract that makes the city the stopgap for any cost overruns, and the full council is expected to approve it tomorrow, according to

The contract would require the city to cover cost overruns beyond the $750 million already backed by the city and the state. The Chicago Tribune reports Olympic organizers say insurance policies would protect the public, making it unlikely they would require the $750 million.

The contract was the main hurdle to Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid (not counting the competition from Madrid, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro), which will be decided on October 2. (New York City never officially guaranteed cost overruns with its 2012 bid, either, but it ended up with bigger problems.) The winner gets to be on the hook for billions in dollars worth of velodromes and infrastructure; the losers get to watch on TV for free.


And let's all never mind the fact that both the last two American Summer Olympics have both made profits for Los Angeles and Atlanta (Most of LA 1984's profit went towards a foundation that continues to support youth sports), nor the fact that the entire Games budget except for the insurance policy is entirely privately financed.

The public is only on the hook for cost overruns, which I bet won't be touched for an American Olympics, and for city-wide infrastructure improvements which will benefit the city for years to come. American Olympic Games are a far better proposition for taxpayers than publicly-funded, often single-sport stadiums. Instead the city is likely to gain new sporting venues and unparalleled international exposure, and all they have to pay for is the infrastructure that everyone will use.

Posted by James on September 8, 2009 09:37 PM

L.A. yes (mostly because the venues were largely already in place), Atlanta no. The most comprehensive estimate, by Georgia Tech urban planner Larry Keating, is that Atlanta lost $1 billion on the 1996 Summer Games.

Posted by Neil on September 8, 2009 11:44 PM

Obviously you don't live in Chicago, or you would be WAAAAAAY more skeptical of ANYTHING that his majesty King Daley about the fact that Daley is wringing his hands over a probable $500 million deficit shortfall in 2010 Chicago budget...yet they manage to "find" $35 million in TIF & tax breaks to get United Airlines to move headquarters downtown...Hmmm...interesting that millions can be found in corporate welfare.
Then there is the rampant corruption that exists throughout city & county AND state government in Illinois.
Every large endeavor (Millennium Park, Soldier Field, US Cellular, Block 37, etc.) within Chicago has come in OVER budget and OFF plan...why should a 2016 "games" be the exception to the rule? It won't.
If you DO live in Chicago James, what are you smoking to believe that Chicago could pull it off and the taxpayer wouldn't be responsible for a dime of it? Get a clue. Rick Telander in the Sun-Times has had some great articles on all that is wrong with the 2016 bid, as well as the Chicago Reader. Educate yourself and get the facts.

Posted by Daniel M on September 9, 2009 02:47 PM

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