a few dissenting voices against a chicago olympics

Friday 17 April, 2009

I attended this event last week Creative Living In the City: Are You Game for the Games? Chicago 2016’s Legacy on Parks, Transportation and Local Sports & was surprised to find there are a few people who are not gung-ho for hosting the 2016 summer olympics in Chicago.  Generally, the Friends of the Parks want a lot of the structures constructed for the games to be disassembled after the games are over:

  • Washington Park-stadium & aquatic center
  • Douglas Park-velodrome
  • Northerly Island-slalom center

They also want these revisions to the plan:

  • Lincoln Park-replace 20 tennis courts with 20 courts rather than proposed 13, & protect the bird sanctuary
  • Jackson Park-replace artificial turf with natural turf
  • Monroe Harbor-the new breakwater could remove boaters from the harbor for 4 years, costing the Park District $4M/year or $16+M, so allow boaters to use the harbor during the construction of the breakwater.

Interestingly, Randy Neufeld, Chief Strategy Officer of the Active Transportation Alliance, formerly Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, was invited to speak about transportation.  He pointed out that the current goal of Chicago’s public transportation is mainly to move large volumes of people in & out of the loop, which is a different goal from moving huge volumes of people to widely dispersed parks & venues.  He sees 4 legacies of the games for transportation in the city:

  • investment in rail & its stations
  • creating the most accessible games, but that costs $10-50M/rehabbed station
  • rapid transit bus system with exclusive rights of way for buses, including shuttlebuses on the expressways for the Olympics, but only 15% of the population uses pubic transportation while 60% drive their cars
  • shared public bicycles

A short Q&A brought into the open:

  • while the old US Steel site on the southeast side might not be utilized, the Michael Reese site should rejuvenate that area
  • the boating community should only be out of Monroe harbor for 1 year
  • there are community meetings to be held to discuss the future of the parks
  • The bid is limited to the answers required in the bid book for the IOC to address issues such as the bird sanctuary, tennis courts, green space.  Chicago’s bid book provides more detail than London’s did, for example we calculated the carbon footprint impact.  There will be changes in the plan as it moves along.

My take-these are all valid criticisms.  What’s important is to have an open & honest discussion of how all this will be played out.  The Olympics are a great opportunity for Chicago, but not at any cost.


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