Olympic Hurdles

Chicago race for 2016 games getting rougher

Is Chicago's Olympic bid going off the rails, or is reality just setting in?

Crain's Chicago Business reports today that Chicago's Olympic fundraising effort is being hampered by the financial crisis because they very industries hit hardest are those targeted by Olympic officials to pony up the sponsorships and donations needed to put on the Games.

"Recent moves by some large U.S. companies suggest Chicago faces a tough road," Crain's says. "Atlanta-based Home Depot Inc. ended its U.S. Olympic Committee sponsorship in January. Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America has yet to renew its USOC sponsorship and in January ended negotiations for a high-profile sponsorship of the New York Yankees. A spokesman says B of A, which bought Chicago-based LaSalle Bank in 2007, is still discussing extending its USOC deal."

It's a particular problem for Chicago because other competing cities have guarantees by their national governments to cover costs. Mayor Daley pushed a $500 million guarantee - backed by taxpayers - through the city council, but is now seeking a much larger state guarantee - $250 million - than originally sought.

While the finances behind the bid seem to be a bit shaky, the infighting over the spoils should Chicago win the Games is already at full tilt.

"Among Chicago’s black entrepreneurs, the Olympics is a subject that causes some uneasiness," Black Enterprise reports. "There’s little doubt about the financial opportunities the games would provide, but there’s serious doubt about who would get first dibs on them . . . They don’t want to leave anything to the whim of political bosses. In the Windy City, it’s easy to get left out in the cold."

Meanwhile, Chicago 2016's new slogan - "Stir the Soul" didn't translate well - is a not exactly, um soul-stirring: Let Friendship Shine.

The kind of friendship that would have put a well-known Chicago sports consultant who often comments on the Olympic bid on a state Olympic committee to act as a disgraced governor's mouthpiece?

Chicago 2016 already had to swap out its logo because it violated IOC rules.

Even public support is questionable. "[A] Tribune poll February 8 showed at best conditional support: 64 percent of respondents said they want the games, but 75 percent said they were opposed to using public money to cover the tab," notes Ben Joravsky of the Reader.

"Look - I know the whole point is to spin the International Olympic Committee," Joravsky writes. "But people, we live here! We shouldn’t be falling for this crap."

With the way things are going, maybe we won't have to.

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