Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid Gets Support From Obamas

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are both hoping to make the case that Chicago should win the 2016 Olympics bid for holding the games. They're competing against Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio di Janeiro.

It is a multibillion dollar effort to put on the Olympic Games. They usually don't make money for the host city, but they are transformative in that they create new structures and infrastructure. The Beijing Games was a coming out party for the Communist government to showcase some tremendous and cutting edge sports venues, but had to overcome the heavy handed tactics of dealing with protesters, tracking and limiting content online, and the ineffectual ability to control the pollution that clogged the skies of the city all too frequently.

Japan's efforts include renovations of venues used in the games held there previously, along with a pledge to make the 2016 games eco-friendly. Chicago has an excellent mass-transit infrastructure on paper, but the facts are something else entirely.

The Chicago mass transit system needs a serious infusion of funds to bring it up to snuff. There are sections of track where speeds are limited because of a concern that derailments are all too possible. It has been unable to deal with basic maintenance, and the bill is in the billions.

Will the Olympic bid improve matters? Possibly. Mass transit is a key, and many of the venues and the Olympic Village are close together, limiting travel time and improving efficiencies in an effort to make the Games green.

I'm not quite as outraged as some are over the President being a salesperson for the US efforts to win the Olympics bid. It's his hometown, and being a booster for the hometown effort isn't necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. I am concerned that the appearance of spending all that time and effort could be used better to deal with the Iranian crisis or the flooding in Georgia or even the health care battles in Congress. After all, there are other issues that require Presidential attention, and if he's spending time lobbying the Olympic committee in Copenhagen, that's time that he's not spending on foreign policy or national security issues like the Iranian nuclear and missile threats.

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