<
>

Nothing to fear here

10/1/2009

CHICAGO -- Remember when life was simple? When a city was awarded an Olympics and the locals celebrated in the streets, rejoicing in their good fortune?

In Chicago, admitting you wouldn't mind the 2016 Olympics coming here is like a local sports writer saying he liked Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame induction speech.

Sure, you might be loyal, but you also must be a slow-witted homer.

It's really too bad. Because the debate over Chicago's Olympic bid never got around to being about the Olympics or even the standard logistical concerns present in any city bracing for such an event.

Rather, it has become all about agenda pushing, political maneuvering and fear mongering. Oh yes, and did we mention bandwagon jumping? Because among the locals, bashing Chicago's bid seems to be all the rage.

You feel naive saying the Olympics would be a great thing to experience up close. That it's a once-in-a-lifetime, historical event that should supersede most of the issues being debated. That the world's eyes will be upon the city and that it is something that will only enhance Chicago's reputation.

Besides, saying all those things will not change the minds of those who are convinced it will result in financial ruin and utter turmoil.

The problem is that all the pro arguments sound like propaganda. And you certainly can't blame those who are distrustful of local and state government and suspect only more corruption ahead if the bid goes through. But you get the feeling that many dissenters are fearing a positive result just as much, that a Chicago Olympics would make a hero out of Mayor Richard M. Daley -- because make no mistake, it will.

Chicago can learn from others' mistakes. Yes, this project is significantly larger and more complicated than, say, Millennium Park. But no city is safer, cleaner or more efficient than a city hosting the Olympics, and it is reasonable to believe that the Olympics would be an effective motive for Chicago to show its best face, as well.

From a historical and modern sports perspective, Chicago is more than deserving of these Games. It is the city that originated all-star games: baseball, colleges vs. pro football, high school basketball. And it is a city rich in college, professional and minor league sports. Culturally, Chicago alone could support and fully embrace the wide variety of Olympic sports as well as the participants.

The suggestion that the Olympic Games will make Chicago a truly great city reminds me a little of when that same theory was floated around when Michael Jordan and the Bulls were winning six NBA titles. It was as if Chicago were this tiny little unknown burg before a basketball team put it on the global map.

Chicago was just fine when all it had was a couple of crummy baseball teams, a struggling football team, and basketball and hockey teams no one had ever heard of in Botswana. It will be a great city if it doesn't get the Olympics.

But there is no need to fear it will be a disaster if it does.

Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.