Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=113857
Story Retrieval Date: 5/22/2013 4:24:48 PM CST
Bob Quellos doesn’t want the Olympics in Chicago, and it turns out, he’s not the only one.
Met with an eruption of cheers and applause, Quellos issued a challenge for public debate between Chicago 2016, the official bid committee, and his fledgling Olympic-opposition group, No Games Chicago.
Quellos made the challenge at his organization’s recent launch meeting, where roughly 250 people gathered in protest of the Chicago Olympic bid. It got a lot easier to fill the room, he said, with a little help from the opposition.
“We really weren’t much of anything,” said Quellos, a Pilsen resident and University of Illinois Chicago graduate. “And then Chicago 2016 gave us more publicity than we could have ever imagined.”
When the committee responsible for organizing the city’s Olympic bid, heard about No Games’ public forum, they offered a panelist for the discussion, Quellos said. But No Games refused, saying their first meeting was not the appropriate venue for debate.
That’s when Chicago 2016 sent an email blast to its 10,000 registered supporters, calling for attendance at the forum. What they did instead was energize their opposition.
“People have heard about this in Vancouver,” Quellos said of the 2010 host city. “In London they have been calling us, wondering what’s going on here.”
“[Chicago 2016] has really done us a favor in saying we’re legitimate opposition to the games.” Quellos said. “I think they helped publicize this meeting and make it a big deal.”
Saturday’s forum centered around a panel of representatives from community organizations including Southside Together Organizing for Power and the Coalition to Protect Public Housing.
The featured speaker was Chris Shaw, the man leading the crusade against the 2010 games in Vancouver.
Shaw said an ever-growing security budget and a drastic increase in homelessness, among other problems, have plagued his hometown since it was chosen as the host city for the upcoming winter games.
“If you study history, you can know the future,” Shaw told the audience at the UIC student center. He encouraged attendees to raise their voices now, before the International Olympic Committee selects a host city on October 12.
Chicagoans on the panel blasted their city government, which they said has put aside $500 million for the games while citizens are suffering from closing schools, reduced mental health clinics and “Olympic-sized potholes.”
The panelists cited the Olympics’ effect on other cities, most notably the displacement of 30,000 poor in Atlanta because of the 1996 games. They said potential real estate benefits were not worth the price of displacing residents.
Those most in danger of this type of displacement, said Quellos, are residents of historic Bronzeville.
Potential displacement and gentrification disturbed Breanna Dahl. A graduate student at Loyola University, Dahl received a Facebook invite to Saturday’s meeting, and said she felt compelled to attend once she heard about the email from the 2016 committee.
“I’d always just heard really positive things,” Dahl said, “and then I thought: ‘No to the Olympic games? Why would we say no?’”
Dahl wanted to hear the answer to that question. She said she has just begun learning about the negative impact the Olympics can have on a city.
“It felt like to me, that [Chicago 2016] didn’t want discussion about it,” she said.
There’s been no response from Chicago 2016 to No Games’ call for debate, according to head of publicity Sarah Macareg. But the protestors know supporters were in attendance, and Macareg even saw one member of 2016 talking to news cameras after the meeting.
“He basically said, ‘we’re here, we’re listening,’” Macareg said.
But so far, they’re not talking. Chicago 2016 could not be reached for comment regarding the challenge extended by No Games Chicago.