Sports

Wisch: Is Chicago Missing An Olympic-Sized Opportunity in 2024?

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Chicago skyline. (Getty Images)

Chicago skyline. (Getty Images)

Dave Wischnowsky Dave Wischnowsky
Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred...
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By Dave Wischnowsky –

(CBS) Whether you were in favor of Chicago getting the 2016 Summer Olympics or not, one thing is becoming increasingly clear.

Chicago should have gotten the 2016 Summer Olympics.

On Thursday, news broke that Olympics officials have become so concerned that Brazil might not be ready to host the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro that they’ve enacted a series of emergency measures to jump-start preparations woefully delayed by “sluggish construction, labor strife and governmental chaos.”

“We believe that Rio can and will deliver an excellent Games if the appropriate actions are being taken now,” IOC president Thomas Bach said, with that discomforting “if” noticeably left hanging in the air.

According to reports, the IOC boss stopped short of ruling out the possibility that the competition might be shifted elsewhere, telling reporters, “What I can say categorically is that we will do everything we can to make these Games a success.”

If the 2016 Summer Games were to be shifted – and what a mess that would be – I think it’s safe to say they wouldn’t be shifted to Chicago. But what I’ve been wondering of late is how Chicagoans might feel if a different Summer Games – those of the 2024 variety – end up being hosted by an American city other than ours.

Back in 2009, when Chicago was in the running for the 2016 Olympics, the No. 1 reason why I thought Chicago’s bid would win was because the U.S. hadn’t hosted a Summer Games since 1996 in Atlanta. Twenty years seemed like long enough for the IOC to steer clear of America, home to many of its biggest sponsors and largest media outlets.

Clearly, I was wrong. And with the 2020 Summer Olympics slated for Tokyo, the soonest that the Games could return to the United States is 2024, at which point I think it likely will – and so too do several other American cities.

On Tuesday, the L.A. Times reported that during a board of directors of meeting in Los Angeles, U.S. Olympic Committee leaders said they’re in the process of meeting with fewer than 10 American cities interested in bidding for the 2024 Summer Games.

“Our goal is to make a decision by the end of the year,” said Scott Blackmun, the USOC’s chief executive, adding that the current talks have focused on “which cities do we think can put together a bid that is going to be a fantastic bid.”

In March, Martin Sorrell, the CEO of London-based WPP Group, argued in an op-ed for Crain’s Chicago Business that Chicago should bid for the 2024 Games, stressing how the U.S. has a strong chance to emerge victorious for 2024 and that Chicago deserves the big stage.

“There are probably three events that can change or stimulate world perception,” Sorrell explained. “One would be through the Olympic games. Another would be the World Cup and another one would be Formula One racing. If you look at nations or cities that are trying to break in, they go for those three image-changing events.”

Currently, mayor Rahm Emanuel is aiming to boost Chicago to No. 5 in international visitors from its No. 9 spot among U.S. cities and attract 55 million tourists a year by 2020.

With those hopes in mind, the city this past week pulled out all the stops to impress 6,200 delegates from more than 70 countries during the U.S. Travel Association’s trade show at McCormick Place. Chicago, however, isn’t believed to be in the running for the 2024 Summer Games, which undoubtedly would elevate its global profile.

Instead, among U.S. cities, Los Angeles and San Diego have so far submitted formal proposals for the Games, while Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. are thought to be interested as well.

From building breathtaking skyscrapers to establishing award-winning restaurants to rooting on our beloved sports teams, Chicagoans, if nothing else, are a proud and highly competitive bunch. We might not always win, but that doesn’t stop many living here from still considering Chicago to be the greatest city in the country. And we also believe it’s one of the greatest cities in the world, even if much of the world might not be aware of that.

To be sure, an Olympics Games in Chicago would come with a lot of logistical headaches and financial concerns. Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel melancholy about the idea of another U.S. city like San Diego or Boston getting all the glory on an Olympics stage in 2024, while Chicago is left sitting on the sideline.

And whether you’ve wanted the city to get a Summer Games or not, I imagine most Chicagoans would end up feeling that way, too.

Follow Dave on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his columns here.

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