Barely a foot outside the office on my way to Daley Plaza to hear the final Olympics announcement, and Chicago is shockingly eliminated in the first round of voting. There will be no Games on the Lake.
This is what dashed dreams look like. The Olympic supporters still mingle and sway in the Loop, either in disbelief of Chicago’s quick dismissal or simply weary of returning back to work. Orange everywhere—the Chicago Olympic ad campaign, the 2016 logo, on banners, t-shirts, signs and pamphlets. Some optimistic sign-sporters have altered theirs to Chicago 2020, a “there’s always next year” glow of disappointment and acceptance on their drizzle-pecked faces.
News cameras galore, of course. A TV journo from NBC interviews a group in the crowd, the audio broadcast through powerful speakers in the plaza. A middle-aged man expresses his lack of surprise and how he feels Chicago did not aspire to be something better, thus didn’t deserve the Games, as if we could have earned the 2016 Olympics with powerhouse will. Another interviewee, a German who’s taken residence in Chicago, is upset, but offers a “God Bless the U.S.A.” It feels as if the whole Loop erupts in applause.
Behind me, I overhear two suited gentleman discussing the outcome, and the lone voice of dissent at the scene comes to the surface. “This is awesome,” he says. “I’m so fucking happy.” A smile from ear to ear. Turn around, it’s John Kass. Some in the crowd notice the popular Trib columnist and snap photos of him from their phones. Others approach.
“I guess you’re out of topics to write about for the next six years,” one guy tells him as he shakes his hand, Kass returning a grin. In his October 4 column, he’ll call the loss “humiliating.” And: “A Chicago 2016 Olympics would have produced seven years of corruption stories, seven years of the mayor babbling that he didn’t know the guys who got the contracts, even if they’re related. So the loss is devastating for columnists and investigative reporters.”
A good number hang on to hear the final, noontime announcement. Rio de Janeiro, as expected, is crowned. A beautiful older woman races through the crowd on her cell phone yelling with excitement and pride, “Rio! Rio!” Her Brazilian accent is obvious.
Boarding the Blue Line heading back to work, a family steps off, just arriving in the Loop. All adorned in Chicago 2016 garb, faces beaming. A middle-aged man, two young children and an elderly gentleman, head-to-toe orange and white, ready to celebrate another improbable victory for a city kept afloat not by its politicians, but by its residents, people who, with modesty and dignity, carry Chicago on their broad shoulders. They have no idea the world said no. (Tom Lynch)