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That's Right...Sports!

by Ted Walker

This month I thought I’d ponder Chicago’s recent bid for the 2016 Summer Olympiadathon. Mayor Daley is out there successfully scrambling around for massive funding and aldermanic support, kissing serious international behind and inducing masterfully produced promos that tout the city with Oprah-esque fuzzy lighting and schmaltz. There’s even a flashy corporate logo that makes me want to watch the 50-meter freestyle go down in Belmont Harbor yesterday. 1 There are lots of super plans included in Chicago’s bid, like proposed sites for BMX racing, beach volleyball, track cycling, swimming, kayaking, yakking, rif-raffing, Smurfing, I don’t know, the logistics kind of bore me. But there will be bold and modern new buildings all over the place2—not counting that new wall in the Columbus building, of course—and many corporate executives to scowl upon. It’s all very exciting.

Our American competition is Los Angeles. That coked-up city’s promotional videos include Arnold Schwarzenegger on a big camera boom overlooking—now I know you’ll never see this coming—a movie set!3  And there’s another one with Gavin Rossdale drinking a lettuce milkshake for reasons I have yet to flesh out. Whatever, the Perez Hilton approach strikes me as the easy route, and a superficial one at best. Chicago’s promotional video, which you can watch at, has lots of parks in it, and the lake, and the skyline. We’re just real Topeka people, man, our video seems to say, and based on that platform I think we’ll win. L.A. is tired, and too cool for school.4

But here’s what I love the most about any sort of Olympic city discussion: a given city has to put its bid in a good nine years ahead of time. I can’t remember to return a video camera to the Media Center a day after I’ve checked it out, and here The City of Broad Shoulders is working a decade in advance.5
“Yeah, this is exciting, I’m so pumped for the Olympic Games to come to Chicago...when I’m thirty-five!” My kids will love it, you might think to yourself.6  But how will your kids love it if they’re not even kids anymore? Though the United States Olympic Committee will decide on its American candidate on April 14 of this year, the final vote on the 2016 city won’t even go through until 2009. I’ll be really rich by then, and the Olympics will be the last thing on my mind when there are so many vacation homes and small-market media outlets to buy. The implications might even seem sort of post-modern, like you’ve got to predict that there won’t be nuclear war or the Greater Depression before go-time.7

I was actually living in Beijing, China, when it was announced that the city would host the 2008 Summer Olympics. And I remember distinctly noting that jeez, 2008? That’ll be here in, like a millennium.8 They were all very excited, the citizens of Beijing, packing the streets and whatnot. It was quite the accomplishment for Beijing to enter the global picture and to be recognized as an international city of note. Which is all well and good, but what disturbs me more is the fact that those Games are almost here. Where in the hell did the last seven years go? What do I have to show for it, that a span of time that would never elapse is now on my doorstep, asking for my resume? It’s more than a little disconcerting.

And so, “May Chicago 2016 never come” will be my toast in 2009.9 Here’s to Smurfing and competitive team archery and beach racketeering in our city. Our grandchildren will deserve it. Hopefully.

1 At first it looks like your typical Olympic torch and flame. But upon closer inspection, it turns out that the licking flames of Spirit are actually in the shape of the city skyline. It’s like one of those magic eye things, which I have never been able to work properly, so it’s actually better than one of those magic eye things. Not better than Where’s Waldo, however. No word yet if, when it’s completed, Donald Trump’s new building will be integrated into the logo’s Skyline of Flame. I guess that’s one situation in which you’d want to hear the words, “You’re fired.” Ba-dump bump, thank you, I’ll be here all semester.
2 Chicago will have a world-class aquatics center…finally.
3 ’Cause Loss Angeleez is where they make all them films ya hear so much talk on!
4 TCFS   
5 Man, think of the fines if I kept that Elura for a tenth of a century!
6 If you have kids, or if you plan to have kids in the next nine-and-a-half years.
7 Now that I think about it, a post-apocalyptic Olympics would be sweetness. For the first time ever, Chicago’s Games could field the 100-meter burning-Oldsmobile hurdles, or fight-for-the-last-can-of-gasoline taekwondo.
8 That was back in 2000, when throwing out the word “millennium” was not only far more common, but was, in fact, the coolest.
9 If I’m still even alive by then.


illustration by Min-Ji Choung

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