Engage: April 2009 Archives

South Side students say to IOC: "No Games!"

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The International Olympics Committee is in town, conducting what news media are calling the most thorough tour of the city since the Blues Brothers blew through. City officials led the IOC through proposed venues for the 2016 Olympics from the Loop to Washington Park, while the committee judged the city's viability as a potential host to the games.

No Games Chicago, a city-wide group organizing against the Olympic bid, has other plans for what the IOC will see, however; this includes the anti-games protest they hosted in Federal Plaza last Thursday. University of Chicago students and other members of the South Side community turned out at the protest to voice their worries over how the 2016 Olympics would effect Chicago's neighborhoods. 

Workers paint a billboard advertising the Chicago Olympics bid in Lincoln Park. (Photo by Rachel Cromidas)

University of Chicago College Alumnus Matt Ginsberg-Jaekle said gentrification will be his main concern if Chicago gets the Olympics. 

"Chicago is a city that's already notorious for displacing its low-income people," he said.

Ginsberg-Jaekle is a member of Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), a community organization comprised of residents of Woodlawn, Washington Park, and other nearby neighborhoods that is heavily involved in anti-Olympics campaigning. 

"Our concern is that the Olympic Committee and [the non-profit Chicago] 2016 will say, 'oh, it's going to bring jobs and economic development, etc.' But we don't need the Olympics to launch major infrastructure projects. We can spend 500 million dollars on constructing affordable housing, and a number of other things."

Jake Werner, a graduate student in the History department and a member of the community group South Side Solidarity Network (SSN), led a group of 10 students to the Federal Plaza protest.

 Werner, a resident of Hyde Park, echoes Ginsberg-Jaeckle's worries about the displacement of South Side tenants in the wake of the Olympic games. 

"[My concern is] that the city will end up evicting homeless people just to make the city look good while our international visitors are here," he said. "The Olympics will accelerate gentrification from the South Side to around 55th street, and do what has already happened to the North Side: make it a nice place for professionals to live. That won't address the issue of poverty, it just pushes it away."

"I would support the Olympics if I trusted Mayor Daley to not use this as an opportunity to push poor people out of their homes," Werner added.

The NO Games Coalition wasn't the only organization to take to the streets in response to the IOC's visit.  The Chicago Police Union picketed City Hall on Thursday, taking advantage of the committee's arrival to draw the city's attention to a contract dispute. Here are some related stories about how the IOC is stirring up community members' enthusiasm, and ire, around Chicago:

*Hyde Park Progress Blog: Grooming for the IOC at MSI

*ABClocal: Mayor Daley says games would be good for city