Taking the gold (away)

On October 12, at the Experimental Station at 61st and Blackstone, some two dozen people met to listen to a story. In a bare room with a concrete floor and a brick wall, Green Party candidate Tom Tresser and young activist Bob Quellos sat in front of microphones and told how an organization called No Games Chicago succeeded in stopping Chicago from winning the 2016 Olympic bid–a bid supported by Mayor Daley, the business community, $90 billion worth of funding, and even the President of the United States.

At the height of the city’s Olympic buzz, the two men had a darker vision of what the  games might bring to Chicago: not prosperity and fortune, as they were told by some media sources, but gentrification, corruption, police brutality, privatization of public lands, and massive, massive debt. In the fall of 2008, they met up to create the No Games Chicago organization. Their message was meant to speak for the City of Chicago: “We’re corrupt and incompetent and we’ll bungle this.”

Every day from July 26 to October 2, 2009, they mailed the IOC members evidence of corruption, crumbling infrastructure, lack of public support, and general penury. No Games met with the IOC once formally in Chicago, and twice informally in Switzerland and Copenhagen, where they handed out a “Book of Evidence,” sometimes sneaking past security to do so. On October 2, at 11 am local time, Tresser watched the results on TV in his hotel room in Copenhagen. Chicago was the first of the top four to be eliminated. He shouted, “We did it, it’s over, it’s done!”

Almost exactly a year later, Tresser and Quellos decided to tell their story of the games as a “public resource.” Attendee Pat Hill, a retired  police officer and former Olympic qualifier, said, “The lesson is you can beat city hall.” We won’t ever know what the Olympics would have brought to Chicago, but this crowd considers the failed bid a victory. An elderly lady in the audience, Liane Casten, echoes him, calling the defeat “one of the great miracles of Chicago.” “This time,” she said, referring to the city’s politicians with a self-satisfied grin, “They didn’t get their way.” (Sharon Lurve)

1 comment for “Taking the gold (away)

  1. October 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    An audio track from the event is posted online at http://www.evoca.com/myrecordings/my_recording.jsp?rid=229218 (49 minutes).

    The No Games story is fully documented online at http://www.nogameschicago.com

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