The obligatory story on my hometown, Chicago losing the Olympics.

October 5, 2009

Chicago: “We wuz robbed!”

I’m with Kevin Lynch. I didn’t want the damn games anyway. Or should I say I didn’t want to pay for them. Anyone who lives here knows that making good on Mayor Daley’s promises can be costly. A 2016 Chicago Olympics would have created the Mother of all Overages. Our taxes are already higher than most.

For much of the hullabaloo leading up to Friday’s bid announcement I stood outside the fray, secretly wishing the whole thing weren’t really happening. Part of my ambivalence was based, I think, on one of the very reasons we may have lost: arrogance. It kind of irked me that O&O (Obama & Oprah) were so involved in this thing. That, and I had become weary from all the propaganda strewn about our city, which, in my opinion, wasn’t very…how do I say it… good. I kept seeing the word IMAGINE and I kept imagining the traffic, the people, the security, the lines, the detours…Basically, I imagined the 2016 Olympics as an epic clusterfuck.

Then on Friday I woke up with a changed mind! To my own surprise, I actually wanted the games to come to Chicago. Why the about face? As an advertising man, I realized many of our clients would probably want to participate and that meant opportunity: creative and financial. I also thought about all the federal money that would have poured in to Chicago for infrastructure repairs. Ask my low-riding Saab if it would like new roads. Last but not least, my kids would have loved it. Ah yes, there it is: the kid card. But I couldn’t deny it. Children love their Olympic games. Hosting them would have made their hometown seem like a circus…as opposed to a clusterfuck.

And then, in Cub-like fashion, we lost. Not just lost but dinged in the first round. I hadn’t even checked my morning emails before the tweets came pouring over the transom. My favorite: “Tweet rhymes with Defeat!”

In the end, my city lost a new business pitch. Pat Ryan. Mayor Daley. President Obama. I watched them all try and put a good face on it. Because that’s what leaders do when they lose a pitch -especially one they thought for sure they would win. It’s hard to do. I know. I’ve been there.

Note: Olympic handcuffs courtesy of AdScam/The Horror!

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9 Responses to “The obligatory story on my hometown, Chicago losing the Olympics.”

  1. as someone who worked a bit on the bid, i feel the need to add my two cents. chicago didn’t really lose because of arrogance. far from it.

    truth be told, the folks at 2016 always knew that rio was the favorite because of the fact south america has never hosted the games. and because of politics–47 ioc votes come from europe–madrid also had a chance.
    the press and the so-called olympic experts were the ones who said chicago was a favorite.

    indeed, between south america being a virgin continent, a serious rift between the ioc and the usoc and lingering anti-US feelings carried over from the bush administration, chicago was always somewhat of an underdog. then there was the question of voter collusion. the olympics have always been a “you scratch my back and i’ll scratch yours” type of deal and this was no exception.

    as far as the financial impact of the games goes, unlike kevin lynch and some others, i don’t have the background needed to know exactly what that would have been. the folks i spoke with all said that with proper management the games would provide an economic lift for the city.

    for those of us who were involved, it was a three-year new business pitch. far more intense, far more interesting and in the end far more frustrating than any other i’ve been involved in. the stakes were high, we were trying to do something that could have changed the history of the city.

    along the way i was fortunate enough to shoot films with janusz kaminki and joe pytka and spend hours brainstorming with the late john hughes. i got to talk music with randy newman, jon brion and buddy guy. and i got to work with people from a number of agencies around town i might never have worked with otherwise. (it was an amazing group effort from 10 or 12 agencies.)

    i also learned what community commitment truly is from the likes of pat ryan. pat is 70 years old and has enough money to do what most people in his situation do: play golf or lay on a beach. instead he travelled the globe tirelessly to support something he deeply believed in.

    i guess what i’m saying is, that even after the official announcement came down that we had lost, i–and many others who worked on the bid– didn’t feel that way at all.

  2. SRP said

    In a word, wow!
    I knew you were involved with this bid but I had no idea the magnitude. I agree, however, a fix was in. IOC politics made even Daley’s machine look naive.
    PS: Jim-
    Please submit some personal writing to the Rogue’s Gallery!

  3. supdog said

    Point 1
    Steffan, imagine if you told a client at a pitch that what matters more than what euro can bring to the client is what the client can bring to euro. This is exactly the tone michelle used in her speech to the ioc.
    Not a good sales approach, plain and simple.

    Pont 2
    If in fact there were still anti american sentiments left over from the bush years as jim attempts to say, chicago would not have been selected as a finalist back in june 08. The blame bush line is getting old.

    The final analysis? Under bush, chicago was a finalist. Under obama, and with the one leading the pitch, we finished dead last.

  4. SRP said

    You’re facts are right, Bernie, but there are a lot of variables…
    As one of the rarer “out” Republicans at our agency I’m sure the silver lining of losing bid is shinier given Obama’s impotence!

  5. not blaming bush–but from the intel i heard–which came from both democrats and republicans within the bid–there was animosity due to some of the previous administration’s policies. as for point 1, well, i can’t argue with you there at all.

  6. Dan West said

    There have been grumblings that the ad and media worlds may have played a bigger role in this defeat than it appears. Word on the street is that there have been long-standing disputes between the IOC and the USOC over ad revenues, sponsorship revenues and broadcasting rights, etc. Jim, since you were involved in this directly, do you have a hunch of how much that affected the vote?

    Not to turn Steffan’s media-centric blog into a realm for political clashes… but characterizing Chicago as a “finalist under Bush” and “dead last under Obama” is a complete distortion of the truth. If an ad agency made it to the last round of a pitch, but failed to get the business, I don’t think I’d characterize them as dead last.

    • supdog said

      Dan, you are missing my simple point. If bush america was so hated, we would not have even made it to the final four.

      Much was said about how obama was to woo the ioc by his rhetoric, style and presence. Of course it was our media who is so enamored with him that said it. But because it did not happen,and chicago finished last in voting, fact not my opinion, blame goes to bush. That notion is as silly as steffan blaming jim for euro’s earlier pitch losses at the start of steffan’s tenure. And doubly bad if steffan actually were to badmouth jim during the pitch. The fact that obama did that in his olympic speech as well as at the united nations a few weeks back has started to reflect poorly on his ability to be more than a candidate in constant campaign mode. I am just asking that he be more presidential.

      And since this site is about advertising and media,I would add that the award winning obama brand needs to do a smarter job of managing itself if it is to build upon last year’s success beyond just the first few post inagural months.

  7. dan, yes, there have been long-standing problems. jon and kate have a better relationship than the ioc and the usoc.

  8. SRP said

    Kinda weird seeing my name in argument about two presidents. I’m thinking Jim feels the same way, although he brought Jon and Kate into it 😉

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