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  • Bidding for the Games -- Opponents Speak Out in Chicago, Rio


    09/25/09

    A few dozen protestors turned out in April for the visit of the IOC Evaluation Commission to Tokyo. Members of the commission met with opponents during their April visit. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    (ATR) Local opposition to Olympic bids seems to be part of any campaign for the Games and for 2016 it’s no different.
     
    Opposition to the Tokyo bid measures the highest among the four bids for 2016, 23 percent according to an IOC survey earlier this year, with just 56 percent supporting this bid. Despite these figures, organized opposition has yet to emerge. Nonetheless, the low support level could affect the chances for the bid – even without protests.
     
    Madrid enjoys high public support, 85 percent and the lowest rate of opposition, 7 percent.

    Only Rio de Janeiro and Chicago have any kind of organized opposition – but neither campaign is expected to impact the bid. Rio enjoys 84 percent public support, just 9 percent opposed. Chicago received 67 percent support in the IOC poll, 12 percent opposed.

    Rio de Janeiro deals with a single opponent who is targeting IOC connections.
     
    Chicago must faces a dogged group of activists called "No Games Chicago".

    No Games Chicago

    The group is small - organizers won't divulge how many members they have - and composed of volunteers. However, it is extremely vocal and has become increasingly visible on local newscasts and two advocates were recently quoted in USA Today.

    Tom Tresser, communications coordinator for No Games Chicago, tells Around the Rings that his group is trying to "watch out for the public good." He charges that no city organization or university has "bothered to take a hard look at this."
    No Games Chicago says city officials are incompetent and corrupt, the city is broke and falling apart and "the people don't want this party."

    "I'd say we've had a significant impact, mainly because there is no one out there criticizing the Olympic scam," Tresser says.
    No Games Chicago is planning a rally to protest the bid at City Hall on Tuesday, as well as some surprises. Tresser said it was "very possible" someone would be in Copenhagen for the group, but "we're not tipping our hand. We try to give the other side as little time as possible to respond."

    Chicago 2016
    Tom Tresser of No Games Chicago in Lausanne in June. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    spokesman Patrick Sandusky calls No Games Chicago "a small fringe group that has had little impact we feel."

    He tells ATR that the bid committee has asked the group several times to meet "so we can explain to them why we think the Games will be great. They've declined every time."
     
    He adds that they have also declined Chicago 2016 requests to appear at No Games Chicago panel discussions against the Olympics.
     
    "They're not interested in facts, they're only interested in scare tactics," Sandusky says.
     
    No Games Chicago even takes a combative stand with the media. Its emails say, "You're receiving this email because of you are SUPPOSED to be covering the news impartially and not passing on 2016 PR fluff as fact."

    Tresser says his group provides research from the academic field, comments from posted community forums and articles from other cities that criticize the bid, the city's financing or the governance of Olympic projects.

    Tresser won't divulge how many people are part of No Games Chicago. "I'll keep that to myself for now," he says. "We're the underdogs. We don't have an office. Let them guess."

    The Web site says that 100 people have donated $30 apiece.

    Tresser did say a "couple of thousand" people have signed the petition. Chicago has 3 million citizens.
     
    During the IOC Evaluation Commission visit in April, about two dozen people protested outside the Art Institute of Chicago, where dignitaries including Oprah Winfrey attended a dinner.

    "I don't understand what they're complaining about," Winfrey said. "It's only going to be good for everybody."

    When the commission toured venues, there were only a handful of protesters. " I think the support of their group was evident during he IOC visit," Sandusky says.

    He adds, "I think their impact was seen when the elected body of the people of Chicago voted 49-0 in support of Chicago's bid and giving a full government guarantee."

    Another group called Chicagoans for Rio also has a Web site, http://www.chicagoansforrio.com.

    The logo shows a runner dropping the Olympic flame and the Web site says, "It would be exciting to host the Olympics here in Chicago. But you know what would be even better? Rio de Janeiro. Just let Rio host the 2016 Olympics. We don't mind. Honest."
     
    A report by Crain’s Business Daily claims the website might be linked to a source in Brazil or San Francisco – but not Chicago.

    Tresser believes No Games Chicago is doing the IOC a service. He and two colleagues brought 100 copies of a "Book of Evidence," a compilation of newspaper clippings criticizing the bid to Lausanne to distribute during the IOC candidate cities briefing in June.

    "We're simply passing on the truth to the IOC members, so they can have the information they need to make a good decision," he says.

    He says the group spoke to some IOC members, "but they would not tell us who they were. They said, 'I shouldn't be talking to you, but I'm very curious as to why you're here.'"

    He says IOC President Jacques Rogge refused to meet with them in Lausanne. However, the group did meet with members of the Evaluation Commission to express their concerns in April.

    Tresser says a generally positive Chicago Civic Federation report was "a complete whitewash," and that board members had conflicts of interest with Chicago bid chief Patrick Ryan.

    Inside Chicago, Tresser said citizens are angry about the way the city is being run, which "directly impacts the popularity of this proposal."

    He points to a recent Chicago Tribune polls that said only 47 percent of the city's citizens support the bid and 84 percent don't want taxpayers to pay for the Games.

    "As I understand it, the IOC would prefer to come to a city where they're welcome and there's a spirit of joy and celebration. That's not what they're going to find when they come here. They'll find a city of dissension, protest and conflict."

    One Man Campaign Against Rio de Janeiro

    Opposition to the Rio 2016 bid centers around Alberto Murray Neto, the grandson of an IOC member. He has made his case in a flurry of letters to IOC members and media and on his blog www.espn.com.br/albertomurrayneto.

    Murray Neto, who was on the Brazilian Olympic Committee from 1996-2008, disputes that Rio is ready to host the Olympics. He says Brazil has too many social problems to be transformed by the Olympics and if the Games come it would be "a national tragedy."

    He tells Around the Rings that he is trying to live up to the Olympic ideals of his grandfather. Sylvio de Magalhães Padilha was a two-time Olympian in athletics who was president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee for 27 years and a longtime IOC member (vice president from 1975-78). He died in 2002 at age 93.

    "I hear people from the bid committee saying that I am not patriotic," Murray Neto says. "I think patriotic is to make improvements, and maybe in another generation, 10 years from now, we'll be able to compete with the developed countries.

    "We still have people dying from diseases that don't exist in other countries, we still have people dying of starvation. I don't think the government has enough money."

    "The government wants to spend a lot of money for the Olympic Games," Murray Neto says. "It should be more appropriate to spend the money to create a sporting policy in Brazil. Only 12 percent
    Alberto Murray Neto is the sole opponent to the Rio bid to take his campaign outside of Brazil.
    of the public schools in Brazil have a place to practice sports - so little, it's almost nothing."
     
    Murray Neto, a lawyer with a Sao Paulo law firm, says he was expelled from the Brazilian Olympic Committee because he is against the Rio bid. He says his grandfather opposed bids by Brasilia in 2000 and Rio in 2004.

    Murray Neto still has ties to the IOC as a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport and has studied at Olympia, Greece.

    Rio 2016 believes that Murray Neto is on a personal vendetta because he was not re-elected to the BOC.

    The bid committee issued a statement, but did not make any officials available for comment.

    "In light of recent allegations made by Mr. Alberto Murray Neto, the Rio 2016 Bid Committee wishes to clarify that the views expressed by Mr. Murray Neto are strictly his own and do not represent those of any official organization," the statement said.

    "Mr. Murray Neto is clearly out of step with the Brazilian sports movement and the general public whose support for the Rio bid has been tremendous and confirmed at 85 percent by the International Olympic Committee. Mr. Murray Neto seems to be pushing a personal agenda based on his failed re-election by the Olympic movement in Brazil."

    The Rio 2016 statement added, "The matters raised in his barrage of e-mails have been addressed by the Brazilian Olympic Committee and the Report of the IOC's Evaluation Commission."

    Murray Neto has sent personalized letters, documents and articles to IOC members who knew his grandfather. He says IOC President Jacques Rogge, whom he met when his grandfather was with the IOC, "has responded to me once saying he is paying attention to what is going on in the Olympic Movement in Brazil. I think it's a good response."

    In his e-mail titled "Rio Breaks the Rules," Murray Neto accused Rio 2016 president Carlos Nuzman of visiting IOC members. Murray Neto, who was quoted in a Brasilia newspaper on the topic, says that no other bid president is allowed to make these visits, but Nuzman has said he is simply visiting fellow IOC colleagues.

    "I try to not be emotional," Murray Neto says, "and to show evidence of things."

    While Rio 2016 says the 2007 Pan American Games were the most successful ever, Murray Neto says the final report was suppressed; Around the Rings has never seen the report which was delivered a year ago to Pan American Sports Organization.

    He says Brazil had a "very bad experience from a financial point of view from the Pan American Games" charging that the games cost 1,000 percent more than the initial budget and that promises for infrastructure construction were not kept.
    He also criticizes sports policy in Brazil, saying the recent Olympic medals won by athletes are due to individual efforts, not to the system. He says elite athletes feel they have to go abroad to train and cites the examples of athletes who don't have enough money to travel to events.
     
    He says Rio 2016 sent the contents of his blog to the police, "saying that I was committing a web crime and prejudicing the Brazilian candidacy worldwide. But I was not committing any crime, I was not lying, it was just an opinion."
     
    When Murray Neto wrote about the incident on his blog, he says he received 4,000 to 5,000 e-mails of solidarity.

    Murray Neto says he is not supporting any of the other candidate cities and will not be in Copenhagen because he is training for a marathon a week later. The marathon is in Chicago.

    Written by Karen Rosen.

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