For the last few weeks, I’ve been sketching an evil plan (with apologies and thanks to Hugh, etc.). It all depended on Chicago being chosen as the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics, which obviously didn’t happen.
I’m from Illinois — not the Chicago part, but somewhere roughly halfway between Chicago and St. Louis. Here’s the understatement of 2009: it’s quite different in Fulton County than Chicago. There’s a small, stupid rivalry that exists on opposing sides of I-80, Chicago and its suburbs on one side, the mostly rural Downstate Illinois on the other. As with any rivalry where one side has the power and the other side clearly doesn’t, the rivalry only exists on one side of the border.
Yesterday I stumbled on a friend’s Facebook post that lamented how the spoils of a Chicago Olympics would primarily benefit Chicago and nothing would trickle down to the rest of the state. Well, that’s a given. That’s exactly how it would be.
You can’t expect it to be any different if you’re sitting on your hands, not making things happen. And, no, complaining does not equal action. The irony of reading his post when I did was that my evil plan started with the same assumption — that the rewards would be consolidated in Chicago — but ended with a completely different conclusion.
I called my evil plan Downstate 2016, a riff off the Chicago 2016 brand. If you’re bringing in tourists, athletes, dignitaries, etc., into Chicago for the Olympics, and you think they’re not going to make it downstate — you’re probably right. But you’re only right if you do nothing to make it happen. It’s not going to trickle down.
What could happen if you got organized and created events — concerts, auxiliary athletic events, tours — worth leaving the Chicagoland gravity well to see before and after the Olympics? Who goes to the Olympics — domestic and foreign — and how do you get out there and make sure they know about who you are, what you do?
Or, thinking in the opposite direction, how would you make sure Downstate Illinois is represented at the Olympics? What could you do to get small businesses from downstate involved in the preparation and execution of the Olympics? And spare me the "Daley is going to give the jobs to his friends" line. I’ve heard that one. It’s a great line for folks that are too fragile to put in the hard work required to seize the opportunities. Those opportunities are not being handed out. You can fight, and you can win. That’s what kills me about the downstate opposition — this idea that The Big City is going to take everything. I guess there is some truth to that because if the shoe were on the other foot we’d be doing the same thing.
I wanted to push back on that assumption and try to help Downstate Illinois capitalize on the Olympics, even if the locals kicked and screamed (right up until the checks were cashed). It would have be fun. It would have been a challenge. It would have been an open-ended problem. I know I wouldn’t be able to convince the whiners — who will whine regardless, because that’s what whiners do — but if I recruited a few dauntless people, we could have made some noise.
It would have been about the only thing that would have brought me back to Illinois in the near term, which I was secretly looking forward to. It’s a moot point now anyway but for just a short while it was fun to imagine controlling my own destiny.
I’m glad Chicago went after it, but it’s clearly Brazil’s turn. Good luck to the folks in Rio de Janeiro.
On to the next evil plan.