Uptown residents hit Olympic reps with budget concerns

Backers of the city’s 2016 Olympic bid squared off last night with critics who say the games will cost taxpayers dearly and may ruin a bird sanctuary in Uptown.

The meeting, held at Truman College, was an opportunity for 46th Ward residents to learn more about the Olympic bid. It turned into a free-for-all as passions flared during the question and answer session.

Before that, though, attendees heard from several representatives of the Chicago 2016 committee, as well as two former Olympians who spoke about the importance of sports for the youth of Chicago.

Mike Murnane, a community relations representative for Chicago 2016, focused on the economic case for hosting the games.

They represent  “an incredible opportunity for economic growth unlike anything else,” he said.

He said the games would not require public funding, could generate as many as 315,00 full-time jobs, and $1 billion in new tax revenue.

“Tourists always leave one thing behind, and that’s money, “ Murnane said.

Holly Krig, a member of Northside Action for Justice, said she's dubious about claims that the city won't have to pick up the tab.

“When Mayor Daley ran out of money for Millennium Park he dipped into taxpayer funds . . . we want to know that will not happen with the Olympics.  We want a guarantee of that.”    

She didn’t get one. But bid committee representative Beth White assured her that the Olympic Games held in Utah came in “$100 million under budget” and that money was given back to a Utah athletic federation.   

Thomas Tresser of No Games Chicago urged the audience to research the games.

Anyone who does so, he said, will conclude the Olympic bid is a “monumental rip off and will make Millennium park look like chump change.”   

The Olympic bid proposes to host tennis competition in the 46th Ward. One audience member was gung ho about that idea.

But resident Charlotte Newfeld  said she's worried the tennis venue will harm the habitat surrounding a the bird sanctuary.

 “It will be destroyed,” she said.

The next Olympic forum will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday at DePaul University.