This just in: Chicago didn’t get the 2016 Olympic games.
Lucky them. No, seriously.
The story at the Chicago Tribune is here (click) and I am being perfectly serious. I speak from experience.
Utah had an Olympic games once. We bribed people to get them — my favorite bribe was the hundreds of dollars worth of door knobs someone on the IOC got — and lobbied like heck, and spent a gazillion dollars and got out of it, as near as I can see, nothing.
OK, we got world wide fame. We got some nifty pictures on our highway overpasses. We all have drawers full of cute little pins.
We spent billions of federal welfare building up I-15 in Salt Lake County (which work was done with so much quality and foresight that chunks of it are already being torn out and re-done), sports venues for the rich to play on and who knows what else. Thousands of Utahns got short-term work at minimum wage, thousands more volunteered to work for free in exchange for the experience.
But that was it.
Ogden got bupkis out of it. All the international exposure may have made money for Earl Holding and Snow Basin, but it didn’t do anything for me, or my neighbors.
OK, it joined with the housing boom to boost the values of homes in Ogden Valley and Ogden’s bench, raising everyone’s property taxes. Some say that’s good, but the widows in Huntsville who are losing their homes because they can’t pay their taxes now may disagree.
Ogden claims to be using the afterglow of the games to boost its own effort to be a winter sports mecca. That may be true, but if it is it was a darned expensive PR campaign, billions of dollars just so some guy in an office can tell Mayor Godfrey, “Hey, I saw you guys on TV.”
Really, we could have spent a lot less money boosting Utah and gotten the same thing. Oh, wait, no, that would mean we would have to spend our own money. The Olympics let us spend federal money to spread the word of how self-sufficient, worker-friendly and anti-big government Utah is.
Sorry, I know I sound cynical, but what’s not to be cynical about the Olympic games? They meant something once, back when Jim Thorpe was losing his medals for having the gall to play pro-football one summer to make food money, but now they’re just a ticket to well-paid fame for a bunch of coddled and very rich athletes who work for advertising companies. They are a massive corporate party that moves around the planet, extorting millions, if not billions, from communities in exchange for the right to have the Olympic brilliance settle down for a couple of weeks. The towns make a little money selling pins, get some publicity, and get to clean up the mess.
The games do not create lasting economic activity. They contract with national and international corporations to do the big stuff — Mitt Romney was not a Utahn before he was hired and is not a Utahn now — sending all the big salaries right back out of town again. Any jobs created for the locals are 1-time construction or minimum wage hot dog slinging.
If the Olympic games were really about competition and fairness and all that they’d pick one spot and hold them there every four years. There’s no money in that idea, just good athletics, so it will never happen.