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July 2009


Water Under the Bridge??

Thanks to the generosity of the folks at the Chicago Yacht Club we have a prime spot from which to report on this year's Venetian Night at Monroe Harbor.  As I look across the water, I notice a huge Chicago 2016 banner down the side of the nearby Columbia Yacht Club (the large ship permanently docked at Randolph and the Lake).  

Last summer we reported on concerns voiced by many Chicago boaters that the Olympic Games would be too great an inconvenience.  The area between Monroe Harbor and the Shedd Aquarium would be closed for 1-2 boating seasons, according to Chicago 2016 -- 3-4 if you believe Olympic skeptics.  At the time, some boaters were raising red and blue flags on their vessels as part of a "don't give up the ship" campaign meant to protest Olympic displacement.  That's why I'm a bit surprised to see the pro-Olympic signage flying from the Columbia Yacht Club.  It may be water under the bridge for them... but not for everyone.

Today friendsofmonroeharbor.org says concerns still exist:

the proposed Chicago 2016 Olympic rowing venue will displace more than 1600 Monroe and DuSable boats, the Columbia Yacht Club and tens of thousands of Chicago area boaters for an estimated minimum of 3-4 years.

As an alternative, the Legacy Plan has been developed with the goal of creating a sustainable social, environmental and economic legacy, post Olympic games, with minimal disruption to our harbors before and during the games.

Friends of Monroe Harbor want Chicago 2016 to change its plan to avoid the temporary shutdown of the harbors and boat slips (see the plans at www.friendsofmonroeharbor.org and www.chicago2016.org ) Negotiations continue. As for Columbia Yacht Club's "we back the bid" signage suddenly sprouting up, I'm told that's a result of political pressure, perceived or real.


Is the USOC working for Rio??

If I didn't know better I'd think the United States Olympic Committee is actively working against Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Summer Games.

A few examples...

In the business of bidding relationships are everything.  So earlier this year, newly installed USOC Chairman Larry Probst engineered a coup that ousted the widely known and well regarded CEO Jim Scherr.  In recent years Scherr has traveled the world for the USOC working with others to rehabiliate an international image that had been badly tarnished in the eyes of many International Olympic Committee members (the people who will decide whether Chicago gets the Games).  It also didn't hurt that Scherr's identical twin brother runs the legacy component of Chicago's bid. 

Scherr was replaced by Stephanie Streeter who conceded in an interview with me this spring that she was uncomfortable with the "public ambassador" duties of her job.  She and Larry Probst were no-shows in Lausanne, Switzerland last month when Chicago and the other 2016 Candidate Cities gave key presentations to the IOC.

Fast forward to this month when the US Olympic Committee angered several key IOC members by dropping the bomb that it would launch an Olympic-oriented television channel in conjunction with Comcast.  As you can imagine, the IOC doesn't much fancy competition that could de-value the amount of money it gets from auctioning off broadcast rights for the Olympic Games.  They've been talking about the Olympic channel for years, couldn't the USOC have waited to ruffle feathers until after the host city vote in October?

“We alerted them...to the serious issues that we have and that we should discuss them before the announcement,” IOC executive board member Richard Carrion told the New York Times.“That’s how a good partnership should work. I guess this is their style of doing things.”  Thanks IOC.  If the member from Puerto Rico is mad at us, how do you think the folks over in Europe feel?

Just this week, the USOC boasted in a press release that it had more than doubled its fundraising goal, bringing in $4.4 million so far this summer.  At the same time, the USOC was irritating IOC members by delaying talks over the seriously sore subject of Olympic revenue sharing.  The USOC gets the biggest slice of the pie because it brings in the most revenue for the Olympics; but some IOC members think America gets more than its fair share.  Not the best time to be bragging about how much money you raked in.

For as long as I've been covering Chicago's bid for the 2016 Games I've been told that the bid is a "partnership" between the city and the US Olympic Committee.  With friends like this, who needs enemies.


Daley's Defense of the Games

(CHICAGO) Just hours before Chicago's Olympic bid team begins a ward-by-ward effort to rebuild public support for the Games Mayor Richard Daley gave one of his most passionate pleas for the Olympics to date.

"We have to worry about the future," Daley said during questioning by reporters. "If people keeping throwing darts at it, maybe [we] will not get it."

Daley said he believes the 2016 Olympic Games will provide economic opportunities for Chicago and its residents that will be the envy of America.   "You tell me one economic program that anyone has offered both in the private sector and public sectors. Every other city would love to have this."

The Mayor has been heavily criticized since returning from an Olympics meeting in Switzerland in mid-June in which he revealed he would sign a host city agreement that would leave Chicago taxpayers liable for any significant cost over-runs.  The agreement is required by the International Olympic Committee; however the Daley Administration had previously indicated it would find a way to protect taxpayers from begin stuck with the bill for the Games and Daley has long denied any tax dollars would go to the Games.  Chicago 2016 Chairman Pat Ryan is still searching for an insurance firm willing to write a policy that offers Chicago residents further protection.

As for the new Chicago 2016 outreach effort in Chicago's neighborhoods, Daley said he supports a debate on the value of bringing the Games to town.  "People can ask any question," Daley said. "People can debate it.  We want that and we'll look at it.  I would never bankrupt the City of Chicago."

For a list of the Chicago 2016 community meetings visit www.chicago2016.org/backthebid 


A Kinder, Gentler Mayor Daley??

As a reporter, there are few more memorable and rewarding moments than a Mayoral eruption.  I know it.  You know it.  And much to my dismay, I fear Mayor Daley now knows it as well.

That's right, he's on to us.  This week at City Hall journalists peppered Daley with questions about Olympic financing, taxpayer guarantees and a threatened aldermanic revolt.  We got a slight finger wag.  One eyebrow arched. But that was it. No pink face. His hair remained in place. There were no signs of the wonderfully quotable Mayor with whom we fell in love with so long ago.  The Mayor who once famously responded to a reporter's suggestion that he wasn't doing enough to help a fellow Democrat at the polls: "What am I supposed to do, take my pants off?"

Fast forward to this week in the City Hall briefing room and the Mayor finally revealed he's on to us. "You're trying to make me always mad," Daley said with a knowing smile.  We squirmed in our seats, fearing the worst, fearing that Mayor Richard Michael Daley was transforming into a politically correct politician.  

Daley's press secretary Jackie Heard gave an approving nod from the sidelines.  No doubt she has tried to coach her boss over the years that Mayoral madness makes for bad pictures in the press.  "I can't be emotional," Daley said of his recent revelation. "I have to be calmed down and not smile.  When you're emotional you start looking differently."

Doesn't Daley realize these are trying times for those of us in the journalism business?  If he can give a tax break to lure Boeing to Chicago... can't he goose our ratings a bit with the occasional outburst?  Come on, Mayor! We need the old you back.  Do it to help a hometown business.