The 2016 announcement is just hours away. Will it be Chicago? Rio? Madrid? Tokyo? The favorites appear to be Chicago or Rio, but who knows. I’d like to see Chicago win.
As as Chicagoan, I’ve seen the campaign close up. A recent poll suggests Chicago citizens are about equally split on whether or not they want the games. The results show slippage from the 2-to-1 support found in an earlier Tribune poll in February.
I think this reveals a flaw in the local marketing of the games. And I think there’s a good lesson in all this: Chicago sold the features, not the benefits. Chicago didn’t tell its citizens why the games would be good for Chicago. Chicago didn’t lay out the lasting legacy of the games for the city. What’s really in it for us? Why should we really support it? What happens after they are over? 8 years of work for a few weeks of sunshine. Then what?
This is a bit of Friday-morning quarterbacking, but here’s what I would have loved to have seen: A campaign centered around Chicago 2017. Show us what the city will look like after the Olympics. Give us a reason to want the games for the decade after the games. Give us examples… If a kid’s 16 years old today, what will the city be like for her when she’s 26? How will the games make Chicago a better place for Chicagoans. Will it be a better place to grow up? Why? Will it be a better place to work? Why? Why would we want to put up with all the construction, traffic, congestion, and attention? Why will it all be worth it?
I do hope we get the games. I do think it will be great for the city. But I have a hard time communicating why. And if I can’t say why, I can’t tell other people why. Shallow support is barely support. That’s a problem.
The bad reasons — the reasons not to support the bid — are the easy reasons: Debt, higher taxes, corruption. A Chicago 2017 campaign could have given me the good reasons. They could have made the good reasons easier to remember and communicate than the bad reasons. I think Chicago 2017 would have put more people into the “I’m for the games” camp than just under 50% and falling.