Saturday, October 3, 2009

Post mortem

The dark "L" flag flying high in the rain above the scoreboard at Wrigley Field yesterday afternoon said it all. It had been a bad day for Chicago. What bagan as a sunny day filled with hope and promise, at least for half of Chicago's citizens, ended prematurely around 11:00 am when IOC president Jacques Rogge declared that "Chicago will NOT host the 2016 Olympic Games". As then as if on cue, it began to rain.

It was tough given the fact that Chicago had been eliminated in the first round of voting. But Rogge's very words were particularly brutal, couldn't he at least have said, in Miss America style: "And the third runner up is... CHICAGO!!!"

Now it's time for analysis and finger pointing. We were too arrogant, the president didn't do enough, or the president did too much, or the mayor was just, well he was just being himself.

The fact is, the selection of Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Games was simply in the cards. All they had to do was convince the IOC that they could deal with their own staggering crime problem, which by comparison makes Chicago look like Mayberry. Obviously they succeeded. As for the early exit, I've read accounts that since Chicago was the odds on favorite, the early votes that may have gone here went to Tokyo and Madrid as sympathy votes. There was simply no way either of those cities would have been selected. It seems that from the outset we didn't have much of a chance either.

I predicted correctly two days ago that in the case of defeat, the critics would say that the money spent trying to get the Games was wasted, that it should have been spent on the schools or other worthwhile goals, not by trying to get some silly games in order to fulfill the mayor's legacy. Well I agree that fixing the schools is definitely more worthwhile than the Olympics. And I don't think anyone, including the mayor, would disagree.

In fact I bet you that if the mayor had a genie that granted him only one of two specific wishes, either getting the Olympics, or having a first class school system where every child enrolled in the Chicago Public Schools would get a decent education, graduate from high school, then go on to lead a healthy and productive life, that he would choose the latter in the blink of an eye.

Imagine what a legacy that would be!

The problem is there are no genies. As difficult as getting the Olympics proved to be, fixing the problem of education in the city is infinitely more difficult. It is not a problem that can be fixed simply by throwing money at it, as some would believe.

Many have pointed to two tragedies in the past week, one on the south side and one on the north side, where teenagers were attacked by mobs of kids and beaten, one to death, the other, just to the brink. The mayor should have been at home dealing with these problems they say. Personally I don't blame the mayor or the schools for that matter, for the homicidal behavior of some of our city's children.

Nor do I blame him for the deep financial morass that Chicago, the State of Illinois, the United States, and the rest of the world are in at the moment.

The truth is that a mayor simply cannot fix all the problems of a city by himself. Many things have to change before poor education, poverty, crime, in that order, are fixed.

The vision of our mayor, and many others in this city is that opportunity is the key to begin to heal our city's problems. The Olympic bid was an effort to bring opportunity to this city. The failure to bring home the Games was in the end, not at all a failure in the big picture. I truly believe that we cannot continue being a great city without looking forward, and without being connected to the rest of the world. This bid, regardless of the outcome was a step in the right direction. It showed the rest of the world that we are willing to do the things necessary to bring us in step with world, and not to just to rest on our laurels, on our great architecture and beautiful lakefront.

I applaud the hard work and dedication that went into this effort. Today is a new day and we have lots of work to do. We can handle this setback because we Chicagoans have had lots of them. Just look at our sports teams for starters.

Some folks think that following sports is a big waste of time. But any Chicago sports fan can tell you that this endeavor prepares one for many of the hardships of life.

So in the end, on the day after our defeat in Copenhagen, I as a Chicagoan can proudly say, "Wait 'till next year!"

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