On Friday, the International Olympic Committee will vote on the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Chicago is one of the candidate cities, along with Madrid, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro. The IOC can be a pretty inscrutable bunch sometimes, so it's hard to say with any certainty who's ahead, but most knowledgeable observers are casting Rio as a very slight favorite over Chicago, with Madrid and Tokyo lagging behind.
Hosting the Olympics could be a huge boost to the Windy City. It'll create jobs, bring in gobs of tourists, and most importantly put the city on the world stage in a way that it never has been before. Outside the U.S., most folks still think of Chicago as the home of Al Capone and the "Hog Butcher to the World"; there may never be a better chance to show off the 21st-century metropolis that it has become. Additionally, preparations for the games would bring lots of long-overdue improvements to the city's transit system and generally spruce up the neglected South Side neighborhoods and parks where many events would be held.
However, playing host to such a massive event is not without its potential pitfalls. The games will create plenty of temporary headaches for Chicago residents: traffic is sure to be awful, hotels and airline flights will be booked solid, and some local businesses may engage in Olympic-sized price-gouging. But there are longer-term concerns, too - many past Olympics have been monetary debacles, with costs far exceeding revenues (see: Athens, Montreal) and taxpayers ultimately footing the bill. Although games held in the U.S. have consistently turned a profit, and the IOC has called Chicago's budget achievable, there are no guarantees here; indeed, both the Vancouver 2010 and London 2012 games submitted financially sound plans but are now experiencing dramatic construction cost overruns.
So, what do you think? Do the potential positives outweigh the potential negatives? Should Chicago host the Olympics? Discuss.
(Oh, and FYI: The announcement of the host city should be made late Friday morning, central time. I'm pretty sure every local TV station will be covering it live.)
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