chicago-2016-olympics

The purpose of the Olympics is to “contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practised without discrimination or any kind, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” Current US rhetoric of building a wall, kicking Mexicans and Muslims out, requiring Muslim citizens to be on a registry, and police brutality against black lives goes against the very fabric and purpose of the Olympics. A Chicago 2016 Olympics would have caused global concern in the international community due to US police racial profiling and stop and frisk tactics. Olympians from black, brown, and Muslim countries would surely be racially profiled. Remember what the NYPD did to Olympian James Blake? Due to the death of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the Bahamas, United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain issued travel warnings to its citizens traveling in the US, especially if they encounter the police.

Other western capitalist countries do not allow citizens or law enforcement to use guns. America’s gun fascination scares the rest of the modern western world. The last Olympics held on US soil, Eric Rudolph detonated a bomb. Ted Kaczynski, Andrew Joseph Stack, Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and Bruce Ivins committed some of the worst attacks on American soil. All white men labeled as lone wolves. Yet, former NYC mayor Giuliani and former Congressman Joe Walsh indict all black people and Black Lives Matter if one black person commits a crime that injures a police officer. Eric Frein hunted police for over 48 days and no shots were fired when he was captured alive. Philando Castile informs police that he has a licensed weapon and is shot on sight in front of his child. What Micah Johnson did in Dallas was unspeakable, but the entire black community has been indicted as a danger to society by politicians and people in authority. Police officers have been caught involved with white power movements, yet black people are told that we are making an issue of nothing.

Would Chicago’s crime rate be this high if it won the 2016 Olympic bid? Heck no. After Obama’s 2008 presidential win, Daley, then Chicago mayor, assumed Chicago would be a shoe in to win the 2016 Olympics. Daley’s “Teflon Don” demeanor was not well received in the international community, especially the prime and proper IOC (International Olympic Committee). Daley had chosen Washington Park in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood as the site of the proposed Olympic Village.

As a Chicagoan, I wanted the Olympics because it would mean our CTA, public transit system, would be upgraded and expanded. Plus, the increased tourism had many condo and homeowners looking for a real estate windfall from rentals in the months leading to the Olympics. It would have been a feat if the city could pull it off. Unfortunately, the location was problematic. The Bronzeville community, although lined with beautiful Greystone homes and a history of black culture – Chicago’s version of Harlem Renaissance – was prostitute and drug infected. I knew several young black professionals (urban pioneers as my friends called them) who bought homes there trying to restore the neighborhood to its former glory when Joe Louis called it home and the Beatles would come to hear the blues. The neighborhood was controlled by Daley’s ally, former Alderman Dorothy Tillman who “after Daley was first elected, Tillman said that he was ‘fostering racism in the city,’ but eventually she and the Mayor reached a détente…by 2006 Tillman was voting with Daley two-thirds of the time.” Once the city announced its bid, almost overnight police presence increased. Prostitutes and dealers virtually disappeared from street corners. The neighborhood plight changed and home values almost doubled.

Unfortunately, city and state politics along with Daley’s “Teflon Don” tactics killed consideration. The State did not want to cough up money for improvements to city infrastructure saying it only benefited the city. If tourists came to Chicago for the Olympics, surely they would linger and visit Lincoln’s Springfield, New Salem, and other points of interest. Without State financial support, Chicago could not improve the CTA, necessary to transport Olympians and tourists to venues. Shortly after Chicago was eliminated from consideration, the police presence in Bronzeville disappeared as quickly as it appeared.

In light of the Zika virus and political upheaval in Brazil, Chicago would have been the better choice. Some of you are skeptical. What about the violence, police brutality, and Laquan McDonald? Hosting the Olympics puts the eyes of the world on the city. The reputation of the city and host country are at stake. If Chicago was hosting the Olympics, Laquan McDonald’s death would have caused international uproar over civil rights and the safety of Olympians. Other countries would be concerned if one of their citizens would be shoot by US police. During the Cold War, whenever the US tried to talk about the former Soviet Union’s violation of human rights, the Soviets always countered with the hypocrisy of the US in light of its treatment of blacks and Native Americans. If Chicago had the Olympics, Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths would have forced the US and state governments to re-evaluate policing procedure. I interviewed Minneapolis attorney-activist Nekima Levy-Pounds after Jamar Clark’s death. Not a year later, Philando Castile is dead because nothing changed.

In 2008, Chicago’s crime rate was nowhere near today’s. Brazil promised that crime wouldn’t be an issue for hosting the Olympics. Brazil performed mass raids on the favelas, rounding up people and handing out long prison sentences. Chicago would have done the same violating citizens’ rights. However, it would have made the government respond due to global pressure over safety concerns. The discovery of Chicago police secret holding site, Homan Square, where people were detained for weeks and months without right to counsel or trial would have had the international community outraged if only out of concern for Olympians safety. Chicago has a well-documented history of police torturing confessions for crimes citizens did not commit. Remember Anthony Abbate, the Chicago cop that viciously beat a female bartender, threatening to do more of the same if she filed a report. The brothers in blue stood in solidarity at court hearings for one of their own in spite of damning video evidence.

At least the Olympics would have cast a global eye on police brutality and forced the US to deal with it if only to protect Olympians. So much for the US being a place “with liberty and justice for all.” No, all lives do not matter in the US when the color of your skin or size of your nose justifies the police in pulling you over and shooting you. It does not matter that you have a permit for your gun and that you live in an open carry state. The Olympic spirit of friendship, solidarity, and fair play does not exist in “mak[ing] America great again.”