Monthly Archives: July 2017

Stop Erasing Anti-Olympic Activists From History!

Professor Allen Sanderson, an economist at the University of Chicago, and a frequent contributor to local publications, has become the latest commentator to erase successful anti-Olympic protest efforts from the public record.

Are Olympics reaching the finish line-mash up

In a July 13, 2017op-ed piece for the Chicago Tribune Prof. Sanderson opines that the Olympics may soon go the way of the Dodo. He is ruminating on the results of years of successful anti-Olympic protest but he doesn’t mention the main reason – groups like No Games Chicago fighting the bid with imagination, facts and courage (but no resources or help from scholars like him).

He says:

These quadrennial pageants seem to be attracting fewer suitors. Why? One reason is that the specter of terrorism has made them much more costly. Another is that two non-democratic strongholds, China in 2008 and Russia in 2014, raised the ante significantly — Russia spent more in Sochi in 2014 than had been spent on all previous Winter Games combined. In addition, economists began to put out the word that these three-week parties, with their post-Games white elephants surrounded by chain-linked fences and weeds, constituted very poor public investments.

Whaa? Costs? Corrupt hosting governments? Fearless economists who dare to tell the truth? I saw NONE of those factors during the year-long campaign to derail Chicago’s 2016 bid back in 2008-2009.

Then he says:

For 2024, the USOC chose Boston. I was part of a consulting team for the mayor of Boston and governor of Massachusetts to evaluate Boston’s proposal and make recommendations. Boston withdrew its bid in August 2015, shortly after receiving our report. The USOC begged L.A. to replace Boston. There were initially five international candidate cities, but Hamburg, Budapest and Rome dropped out, leaving only Paris and Los Angeles.

No mention of No Boston Olympics! Unbelievable.

No Boston OlmypicsNo Boston Olympics was made up of hundreds of volunteers and thousands of supporters, including residents from every neighborhood in Boston and all corners of the Commonwealth. To learn more about who we were, read this piece by Olympic writer Adam Vaccaro about our organization’s formation and ongoing workthis piece by Shirley Leung, or this piece about our post-Boston 2024 activities. No Boston Olympics Volunteer Co-Chairs: Chris Dempsey, Brookline, Kelley Gossett, Boston, Liam Kerr, Boston

By all accounts, this intrepid team of citizen activists got Boston to back out of its bid on July 27, 2015 when one-time bid-booster Mayor Martin Walsh announced that due to lack of public support he would not sign the required host city contract (what we in No Games called “the blank check”).  “I cannot commit to putting the taxpayers at risk,” the mayor declared. “If committing to signing a guarantee today is what’s required to move forward, then Boston is no longer pursuing the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.” When you say that – you have just killed your city’s bid.

So I checked with one of our Boston allies to get the facts. Did our friend know of Prof. Sanderson and his report? Was it the nail in the coffin as the good professor seems to imply? [You can get the report here]

Here’s what I learned:

  • The report he cites was commissioned by the Governor, the Senate President, and the Speaker. NOT the Mayor.
  • The bid was pulled by the USOC, NOT the Governor, Senate President, and the Speaker.
  • The bid was pulled in late July. The report didn’t come out until August, AFTER the bid was pulled.

It’s fair to say the impending publication of what was sure to be a negative report helped precipitate the withdrawal, but it was one factor in a sea of many.

I was a co-leader of the No Games Chicago campaign in 2009. We tanked Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics. There. I said it. It may be hard to believe that a group of volunteers with no budget, staff or office could out think and win against the 2016 bid which was backed by Mayor Daley, Governor Blagojevich, President Obama, Oprah and Chicago’s entire civic, media and academic eco-system. Who we were, what we did and why remains unreported to this day.

I write now to protest the continued erasure from history of citizen’s protest efforts that oppose these bloated, clout-driven mega-projects. Protest and opposition that is often done with no funds, no help and at great risk to people’s careers.

We at No Games Chicago have long reconciled to no love, no mention and no learning from our work. Even as the 2016 Games approached and receded into history and this newspaper, a s well as the Chicago Sun-Times, turned from Games boosters to officially saying “Whew, sure glad we did NOT get those city-killing Olympics!” with no mention of No Games.

NOlympicsLA screen No Games Chicago, No Boston Olympics and now – Nolympics Los Angeles are people-powered responses to terrible urban planning. We protested, are protesting plans that enrich the few at the expense of the many. We are part of the voice of opposition and we deserve to heard and heeded.

Tom Tresser
Civic educator
Lincoln Park