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In Chicago, Some Protest Olympic Bid
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In Chicago, Some Protest Olympic Bid

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Michelle Obama was welcomed in Copenhagen today where she and soon her husband will lobby for Chicago to host the 2016 Olympics. The International Olympic Committee votes on Friday in a race among four cities. Back in Chicago, a relatively small collection of people are crossing their fingers hoping that Chicago loses. These naysayers maintain Web sites such as ChicagoansForRio.com. Rio is one of the other cities competing.

NPR's David Schaper checked in with locals who do not want the games coming to their city.

DAVID SCHAPER: The Olympics are the talk of Chicago, whether it's on talk radio or blogs, at downtown restaurants or neighborhood saloons, almost everyone seems to have an opinion on hosting the games and whether Chicago can even be trusted to pull it off cleanly.

Mr. JACK MALONE: I think the Olympics are wonderful, I just don't think they're good to be in Chicago.

SCHAPER: Jack Malone is an accountant from the city's north side, and joined about 250 other Chicagoans and suburbanites protesting Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic Games outside of city hall last night.

Mr. MALONE: I mean, you can only showcase the city once all the problems in the city are done, in my opinion. We have a lot of problems in the city that are not being taken care of.

Mr. BILL SCHANDELMEIER: The Olympic Games will not improve the quality of life for most Chicagoans.

SCHAPER: Bill Schandelmeier argues that few city residents would benefit from the games, but all would end up paying for them.

Mr. SCHANDELMEIER: The mayor has consistently said that this won't cost the taxpayers additional revenue, but that's a lie. We know that there has been cost overruns on project after project.

SCHAPER: And Schandelmeier says Chicago's rogue(ph) brand of politics and occasional penchant for corrupt contracting would certainly worm its way into the multibillion dollar Olympic budget. Barbara Chadwick, a retiree from the city's northwest side, worries not only about the cost and possible corruption, but about transit and traffic headaches too.

Ms. BARBARA CHADWICK: Ugh, I can't even imagine. I mean, as it is, the expressways in Chicago are a nightmare much of the day.

SCHAPER: And it's not just those protesting the games who have a problem with Chicago's bid.

Ms. ANNETTE OLSEN: I mean, it's gonna be opportunity for Chicago, but I don't want to pay for it.

SCHAPER: At the Golden Nugget restaurant and pancake house on the city's northwest side, waitress Annette Olsen says every day she sees other priorities the city needs to be spending its money on.

Ms. OLSEN: Streets, potholes, crime, drugs, schools.

SCHAPER: A couple of Chicago police officers sitting down for breakfast second those sentiments, though they wouldn't talk on tape about the Olympics because as one cop said, we'd have to bleep out every other word. To be fair, though, there are many Chicagoans who support the city's bid for the Olympics. The bid committee released a poll this week highlighting overwhelming support - over 70 percent. Though some think those poll numbers might reflect a bit of Chicago-style electioneering.

David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago.

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