Rio wins 2016 Olympics bid. Here's how top-seeded Chicago lost its mojo
To those who haven't been paying much attention, it's probably a huge surprise that Chicago was knocked out so quickly. The city was the odds-on favorite of bookmakers and a close second to Rio in GamesBids.com's index. And President Obama and the First Lady traveled to Copenhagen to make a personal pitch, to the consternation of Republican party leaders. But those keeping score at home have known since last summer that Chicago 2016 had lost its mojo.
Led by former Aon chief executive Pat Ryan, Chicago 2016 was poked and prodded continuously by local media, which dug into serious concerns about the cost overruns that taxpayers would have been forced to cover. Chicago residents were left wondering whether the Summer Games would be a boon for the region's economic development, or a boondoggle aiding the cronies of Mayor Richard Daley -- many of whom have deep ties to the Obama administration.
In recent weeks, polls have made clear that, despite the patriotic Olympic fervor portrayed by national media, millions of Chicagoans had turned against the bid. Add in the city's infrastructure concerns -- such as a woefully outdated and limping public transit system -- and the symbolism of the first Olympics in South America, and it's not exactly a shock that Chicago won't host the Games.
More amazing, though, is how much money the major Midwestern corporations -- and Chicago's social elite -- spent on the city's effort. Merrill Lynch, JPMorganChase, and United Airlines were three of a long list of donors who contributed $72.8 million just to get to Copenhagen. That's more than the budget of the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, and it doesn't count the untold millions worth of in-kind contributions from major law firms and other consultants.
In a city with well over 500,000 people living below the poverty line, that's serious cash. The best that locals here can say is that, with the city losing its bid, at least they know another $250 million or more won't be wasted to gear up for 2016.