Fuhgettaboutit! Say no to 2024 Philly Olympics

Posted: April 26, 2013

IN WHAT MAY go down as his greatest "wild-hair" moment, Mayor Nutter told the U.S. Olympic Committee - don't start laughing yet - that the city wants to host the 2024 Olympic Games.

(I suspect he wants to see a bicycle race that's not on a city sidewalk.)

He's found $20 billion under the cushions of his office sofa? I know we've decriminalized marijuana, but . . .

Our police force will provide airtight security when it can't keep track of its own guns? We fail to collect from tax deadbeats, but will raise billions? Philly can barely keep the schools, libraries and rec centers open, but we'll rehab a transportation network and build an Olympic Village? Is the contractor who did the MOVE homes ready to bid?

The city is less than deft in selecting the right people for the job. In Philly, the right people aren't always the "right" people.

First, the guy has to be related to someone in City Hall. If not, he's married to someone there. Not hooked up? He hires an ex-con politician as a "consultant."

Next, he sprinkles the fairy dust of pretending to meet minority-hiring goals, or quotas, or belly-rubs, or whatever they're called now. That means one multiracial transsexual with a twitch in the front office, plus two "little people" with lisps and limps on the job site. Some lucky minority will be named to the board and will draw a check for having a pulse.

Money for construction will be borrowed from, then deposited back in, a women-owned bank. It will have lace curtains and pot pourri in the cash drawers, and will charge twice the prevailing interest rate. It will go belly-up before the Olympics because all the bank officers majored in lesbian studies instead of economics, not even home economics. Especially not home econ.

All of the above is in deep freeze until Local 98's John Dougherty says "yes," and that usually takes him two paragraphs. Without Doc's "yes," nothing moves - except maybe giant, inflatable rats.

In 2024 Nutter will be long retired, living in a "green" gated community that prohibits cars and where all water is drawn from a communal well. "His" Olympics were dumped in the lap of Philadelphia's first female mayor, Nora Kenney, daughter of the late councilman whose head actually exploded during a budget hearing.

If this sounds like Negadelphia, sorry. Do we need the big, costly O? We have the freaking Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and, more importantly, the Rocky steps and scrapple.

How many LOVE tchotchkes can we sell in one summer?

It costs multibillions to stage an Olympics (Beijing, $40B; London, $20B) and most of them lose money. That's something we've mastered. Millions are missing from the Sheriff's Office, millions earmarked for community groups disappear down rabbit holes, and city finances are red as fire trucks.

Politicians often promise economic benefits, but "the reverse is true," says Stefan Szymanski, sports economist at the University of Michigan, speaking for many analysts. It's an economic sinkhole. We can't fund the schools, but we can fund this?

Imagine a Philly Olympics. Imagine a gridlocked Schuylkill Xway. Imagine SEPTA collapsed under the added strain. Imagine Center City business going down. (That happened in London.) Imagine thousands of new hotel rooms empty after the Olympians leave town.

I imagine a huge civic black eye, like we got when Mayor Rizzo wanted federal troops to protect the Bicentennial celebration.

I imagine three of the five Olympic rings being stolen, some sandwich shop asking all Olympians to speak English, and homeless people cooking chicken on the Olympic flame as they did a few years ago on the eternal flame in Washington Square.

Sadly, Philly isn't can-do. We're muddle-through. Don't bite off more than we can chew.

Let's be smart and watch it from a safe distance.


Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky

Columns: philly.com/Byko

Blog: philly.com/stuniversity

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