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Friday, October 02, 2009  

Blame it on Rio

I suppose I'm one of those Chicagoans (sorta--in temporary suburban exile) who is today shedding one solitary tear for the failure of our Olympic bid. For all the ins-and-outs and arguments against it, the Reader has been indispensable, and their blog today is must-read stuff (complete with Quigleymentum).

That said, I have in the last few days started to understand the mass psychology behind such an irrational project. A friend put it this way: it's like being peeved that you weren't invited to a party you didn't want to go to anyway. People want their city validated. And well-placed people in particular want to believe certain things about their city--that this won't be Cloutfest 2016, that unlike everywhere else in the world, the Olympics will actually have a good, big impact for us, that the run-up to the games won't be (Block 37 + Hired Trucks + Millenium Park) x Parking meters - Blue Line SUPERTRAIN, that airy concepts like "global profile" will actually mean something. There were also the political calculations, most notably the need to avoid being the skunk at the Mayor's garden party. Not to mention a desire to get a piece of the action (a desire to which God-fearing freelance writers are not immune), and a more creditable desire to see the whole thing succeed, if the deal came down.

So we're left with a strange hangover. I admire the man greatly, but it's a little sad to see Ben Joravsky straining to celebrate what is, at best, a dodged bullet (though he's right that the desultory attitude of Chicagoans, when the whole city's power structure was pulling for the games, is kind of interesting). Today, independents and progressives in the city are back where they've always been: arguing for fixing the schools, shoring up a clattering transit system, reining in an awful rash of violence. Those things can't have gotten harder since the Olympics decision, but I have no idea whether they've gotten easier. That will depend to some extent on what the city fathers decide to do when the hangover wears off.

One more note: It was never a good idea for the President to go to Copenhagen to lobby in person, especially since it didn't pay off (and why should it have?). The "Obama overexposed" meme is just stupid, jumping from pundit to pundit like ripped jeans through my fifth-grade class, and it's especially rich coming from then-admirers of President Flight Suit. But the prestige of the office is real and needs to be deployed legitimately. He does represent all of us, and I wish he'd stuck to our big problems.

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posted by Benjamin Dueholm | 3:30 PM
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