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No Really, Be Happy Chicago "Won"

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As expected, I was relieved to see that Chicago won the chance to host the 2016 Olympics - something I stated in a post that Tony was nice enough to link to today. In that post there are some nasty comments that I would like to respond to. The overall message of my article was that Los Angeles doesn’t need the Olympics, and no amount of name calling changes that opinion.

In recent history, the primary draw of hosting the Olympics has been to gain international media exposure, which believe me, we already have. It amazed me how easy it was for local leaders to convince us that we would be able to host an Olympics “free of charge,” because all of the money would come from private sources (before the state’s $250 million overrun guarantee came into play, of course) and all but one of our venues are already in place (as though many of them wouldn't need extensive renovations to make them "Olympic ready"). Chicago has been pushing this “low cost” plan to its residents also, even though they have to build many of their facilities from scratch.

So, London will pay $18 billion for its games, Athens paid $12 billion for the 2004 games, Sydney ran 100 percent over budget in 2000 (with a prominent UK sports minister declaring there will be “no profit legacy,” only a feel-good factor and rejuvenated national pride), the Chinese budgeted $23 billion for the Beijing games, and now suddenly we're suddenly going to have the games in Los Angeles for free? The cost of hosting an Olympics goes way beyond simple bricks and mortar. The Greeks spent an estimated $1.5 billion in security ALONE for the Athens games. You think America will spend less for security at our games?

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Economic impact studies are a dubious by-product of these quests for two weeks on the world stage, and ex-post studies have been quashing the impact of Olympic hosting for years, only to fall on deaf ears as boosters accuse those who question the actual benefit of the games of somehow being unpatriotic. Yes, Los Angeles turned a possible $200 million profit for the 1984 Olympics, thus ushering in the modern era of Olympics as “financial boon,” but the reality of hosting the Olympic games has been quite different since then.