The International Olympic Committee will soon select the site of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. In the running are Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago. While Michelle Obama is already scheduled to travel to Copenhagen for the October 2 announcement, I’m betting that Barak will be more than happy to take a short vacation from his troubled health care reform efforts to attend as well. I’m also predicting that Chicago will receive the bid to host the 2016 Olympics. While no one will ever know for sure how Olympic Committees make these decisions, I’m sure that Obama’s “rock star” status among foreigners has done enough to put Chicago over the top.
Hosting an Olympics will garner obvious benefits for Chicago. There will be temporary construction jobs associated with the building of venues. Providing the world economy holds up, literally hundreds of thousands of visitors will dump tons of money in Chicago for the two week duration of the games. What city wouldn’t want to be showcased to the world? Oh, what a grand party this will be!
Unfortunately, like Medicare, social security, healthcare, and TARP programs, the Olympics will be both expensive and unaffordable. The Chicago 2016 Olympic bid committee initially projected that the $4.8 billion estimated cost would be paid for with contributions from wealthy donors, corporate sponsorships, television rights and ticket sales to ceremonies and sporting events. Furthermore, the 2016 Committee has promised that “no Chicago taxpayer dollars” will be needed to host the Games. 84% of Chicagoans oppose the use of any taxpayer money for the Olympics and zero percent of them believe any statements coming from city hall.
On Wednesday, September 9, 2009 Chicago taxpayers’ suspicions proved well founded as the Chicago City Council voted unanimously in favor of a full governmental financial guarantee for Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Keep in mind that this Olympic bid originates from a city that is so short of cash that it recently sold all of its 36,000 parking meters to a private firm for a one-time cash infusion of $1.2 billion.
Let’s look at some recent experiences that other cities have had with the honor of hosting the Olympics. The most recent Olympics held in the U.S., Salt Lake City 2002, had actual costs 2.5 times the original budget. The 1976 Montreal Olympics closed out at 11.9 times the original budget of $124 million. Both Vancouver (2010) and London (2012) may come in at 10 times their original estimates. Spending over $12 billion on its 2004 Olympics, Greek taxpayers are distressed and most of the venues are closed and deteriorating after their two week “celebration”.
If anyone thinks that Chicago won’t spend multiples of the estimated $4.8 billion budgeted on the Olympics, they need only look at the Millennium Park project, which came in at $475 million while budgeted at $150 million. Even based on a three-time cost overrun, the Olympics could cost Chicagoans $15 billion. Some say that the costs could escalate to $40 billion.
Nevertheless, Chicago will have its party in 2016. Money won’t be an issue if Obama is re-elected in 2012. By 2016, when Chicago’s billions of dollars of Olympic deficits are realized, the second term President will have plenty of time to arrange a big, fat Federal bailout for the windy city!