08/19/2009 10:00 PM
The 2016 cost
As we wind down to the home stretch of the race to find out which city will host the 2016 Olympics (“Worries remain,” Aug. 13), I can’t help but think of the famous line from Colonel Jessup played by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men: “You can’t handle the truth.” Indeed, this seems to be the bedrock of the Chicago 2016 public relations playbook.
Patrick Ryan insists that there is only a remote chance that any taxpayer money would be used to fund the 2016 Olympics. Chicago 2016 has lined up a $500 million guarantee from the city and a $250 million guarantee from the state in the “unlikely” event that there are cost overruns. Lori Healey was quoted in a 2006 Crain’s article, estimating the cost to host the Olympics at $1 billion. Chicago 2016 now estimates the costs at $4.8 billion, utilizing figures from 2006 and 2007. Of this amount, over $1 billion stems from infrastructure costs. Unless they have found a private developer to foot the bill, the city is already on the hook for $1 billion — before the guarantee, or any adjustments from inflation or the IOC demands.
When asked why Chicago 2016 would tear down the Collins High School gym to build the Olympic Velodrome after the city invested $30 million in 2007 to renovate the school under the Modern Schools Across Chicago program, Arnold Randall indicated that the City didn’t spend “nearly that amount.” The 2008 Annual Report for the Midwest TIF report indicates that of the $30.3 million committed to the Collins project, a little more than $14 million had been spent as of December 31, 2008. Collins graduated its last class in June, yet the school’s capital improvement plan indicated future planning costs exceeding $1.2 million. I can’t help but wonder what happened to the remaining $15 million, and hope that the funds will be used to improve facilities to educate our children rather than provide a down payment on the field of Olympic dreams.