Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Less Doubt on Chicago 2016 Olympics

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

I have just returned after a weekend in Seattle, WA. where I ran in their marathon. I have returned with an enthusiastic appreciation of how well Chicago can put on a world-class event and how pale other city’s efforts can be.

I don’t feel qualified to comment on the financial controversy that is surrounding Chicago’s bid to hold the 2016 Olympics and I must admit the questions raised have fueled some doubt as to the viability of such an event in Chicago. But, if there was any doubt in my mind whether Chicago can organize, plan and execute a joyful and safe international event, it was erased this past weekend.

Upon arriving in the city of Seattle I exited an expressway ramp only to be dumped in the middle of somewhat confusing road construction. I found myself stalled in traffic next to a Seattle Police squad, so I thought I would get my bearings on where I was headed. My window was open as was the officer’s. With a smile I went to ask for directions, but immediately upon eye contact with me the male policeman sneered, “What the hell do you want?” Keeping up my smile and a friendly demeanor I asked my question to which he gave a curt answer punctuated by, “…now get the hell outta here.” Welcome to Seattle.

That was just the beginning of a very weak effort by this city to showcase itself. Lack of signage maneuvering around the city to get to the required registration and expo locations made the days before the race maddening and stressful. An estimated 35,000 racers were signed up for this event and if they brought one companion each, that’s a minimum of 70,000 people, many visitors, coming into your city. The lack of a city presence in helping us navigate around with construction surrounding the necessary venues was significant. And this is all before the race day itself.

Race day was more frustration. Long lines to take shuttle buses to the race start, lack of communication, poor logistics on the roads to the event, and neglect of spectators’ needs highlighted a long list of deficits in planning and execution. And, speaking of spectators, the ‘crowds’ coming out to support and enjoy the event were sparse. I’m not talking about the many and ample groups of volunteers who did a great job throughout the course, but the citizenry of Seattle coming out for the event was negligible. Contrast this with the CROWDS often two and three people deep that throng the entire marathon course at the Chicago Marathon. Chicago supports and appreciates a world-class sporting event. Most of the spectators dotted along the course were friends and family of the racers, not from the community.

Speaking of the course. The Seattle Times extolled the ‘beauty’ that the path weaved through Seattle and nearby towns. Sure, I’m spoiled by Chicago’s architectural magnificence, but even someone who has never set foot on Chicago or New York or Boston cannot call the course we ran, ‘beautiful.’ Sure, there was a stunning stretch for a couple of miles through Seward Park where we passed a bald eagle sitting on a tree limb right above our heads something other cities cannot duplicate, but the remainder of the course weaved through some nondescript residential sections of suburbs and small towns and many, many sections of highway. Ever run for miles and miles on a slanted, ridged highway? Your knees and ankles will remember that for months. And the beautiful (sic) view of industry on either side of the highway pales in comparison to running through the Chicago neighborhoods. Google a picture of Safeco Field where the Mariners play, ugh!

I could go on and on about how Chicago puts on an event, but I think you get the picture. I felt it important to comment on how well Chicago holds such events in view of all the recent publicity the Olympic bid was receiving. I don’t know about all these financial shenanigans, but if there is a city that knows how to welcome visitors and hold a global event, Chicago is the place.

Dr. John E. Mayer
International Sports Professionals Association-ISPA
(Headquartered in Chicago, btw.)