Friday, October 02, 2009

Backing the Bid

Swifter, Higher, Stronger, Graftier
Sometime in the next few hours, the International Olympic Committee will vote on where the 2016 Olympic Games will be held.

This page certainly hopes that the games are awarded to Chicago.

In general, public financing of sporting events is a bad thing, especially when those funds are used for single purpose stadia that benefit the financial well being of the single already high net worth owner of the benefiting team.

But the Olympics are not that type of event. Yes, many people stand to make a lot of money off the games. That's part of the key: The money will be spread out among hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs will be created and last for many, many years.

Furthermore, where Chicago really stands to benefit is in the redevelopment of blighted and ignored areas of the city.

Look at the Lake Michigan shore line from Soldier Field south to the Museum of Science and Industry and compare it to the same area to the north. On the north side there’s some of the best real estate in the country: Lincoln Park. On the south side, you see miles of underdeveloped and underused lake shore and the blight that was Michael Reese Hospital.

There are two points that are generally used to oppose the Olympics. Both are valid, but one is severely mitigated.

Point one is the cost. Where is the $10 billion in construction funds going to come from? Is this all going on the taxpayers?

The answer to this is that a large portion of the funds come from the money the games themselves generate. NBC is paying nearly $1.2 billion to broadcast the London Olympics. That number will likely go up for Games that are timed to maximize American TV viewing habits as a Chicago games would.

NBC isn't the only broadcaster. In general, international broadcast rights fees are about 65% of the American rights fees. This means $2 billion from TV revenue alone is available to pay for the cost of the games.

The other sources of revenue? Ticket sales, memorabilia sales, corporate sponsorships (how much does Visa pay in?), and yes, taxes.

But, if you can get, say, $10 billion in development and have 70% to 80% of the cost paid for, isn't that worth it? This city has blown nearly a billion dollars on Soldier Field and Comiskey Park, alone. And who benefits from that? Jerry Reinsdorph and the McCaskey Family.

If the South Shore could become a second Lincoln Park, everyone would benefit.

The benefit is worth the risks of costs in this view.

The more reasonable argument against is that of trusting Mayor Richard Daley to do it right. This is a very valid argument. Just look at the aforementioned Comiskey and Soldier Field deals. How much better would the bid look if Soldier Field had been truly redone as an 80,000 seat retractable roof stadium?

You worry with Daley about the vision thing. You also worry about the graft thing. Yes, there's a good chance not all of the money spent will be spent above board. OK, more than a good chance. A lot of it will.

There's no answer to this other than to say, "Yeah, but the Games are going somewhere. And graft will go where the games go. Might as well be our graft."

Ivy Chat supports the Bid.

As to if Chicago will actually get it, the betting line here is that the Games were a lock the minute Sen. Obama became President-Elect Obama last November.

We will find out shortly.

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