Questions Swirl Around Perceived Olympic Insurance Shortfall

Taxpayers still at risk

By Steve Rhodes
|  Tuesday, Sep 22, 2009  |  Updated 2:34 PM CDT
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Chicago's Olympic Protests

Marcus Riley

Patrick Ryan may not have lined up enough insurance.

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You know that great insurance package that Pat Ryan put together to protect Chicago's taxpayers in case an Olympic Games here costs more than projected?

It's got more holes than the Cubs' roster.

As Crain's notes this morning, the riskiest item on the Chicago 2016 docket -- building the Olympic Village -- isn't covered at all.

Olympic Villages are notoriously expensive and riddled with problems. For evidence, just look at Vancouver which is hosting the Winter Games. That city's government has had to step in and save the project with taxpayer money despite promises it wouldn't need to do that.

In fact, the Vancouver Games - like so many before them, including the now-infamous London Games - have had a budget "meltdown", in the words of the Calgary Herald.

Ryan's patchwork of insurance policies are no bulwark against the laws of Olympics physics.

For example, Crain's reports that the policies - which have yet to be secured - would only cover $1.1 billion of the projected $3.8 billion operating budget for a Chicago 2016 Games.

Insurance against construction overruns will only cover the first 10 percent; not a good bet in Chicago, where overruns historically come in two or three times that.

And plenty of items in the budget will not be insured - from projected sponsorship dollars to projected private donations. If those fall short, the gap will have to be filled somehow. That's why that blank check from taxpayers is sitting there, just waiting to be filled in by Ryan, signed by the mayor and cashed by Chicago 2016.

"It's a leap of faith," Ald. Joe Moore (49th) told Crain's.

That it is: A leap of faith based on evidence of things not seen in any Olympic Games past, present or future.

For complete coverage on Chicago's Olympic Bid click here.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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