From now until October 2nd, the city of Chicago will keep its fingers crossed, vying to become host to the 2016 Olympic Games. It’s currently one of four candidate cities, but the competition is tough. With the other three candidates hot on its heels, Chicago’s 2016 Bid Committee is hard at work showcasing what makes their city best-suited for the challenge, not the least of which is its proximity to Lake Michigan, the fifth-largest lake in the world and home to some of the best sailing between Long Beach and Larchmont.
Chicago native Janet Baxter has dedicated her life to growing the sport of sailing. As past president of US SAILING and recipient of the 2007 Leadership in Women’s Sailing Award from BoatUS, she is now one of several volunteers working tirelessly to bring the Games to Chicago. If the Bid comes through, says Janet, sailing will be front and center and Lake Michigan will be transformed into a highly competitive racing venue, a change Janet can’t wait to usher in. We checked in with Janet to see how the bid was going.
Why do you want to see the Olympics in Chicago?
Baxter: Because the Olympics are unlike anything else. There’s a lot of drama and emotion. These athletes set a public goal and they know that everybody at home is rooting for them; they’re carrying the hopes and dreams of their nation. There’s also a lot at stake: they get a DSQ, they capsize or they go the wrong way on a beat and everyone knows.
Also, I would love to get the opportunity to show off my city. We’ve got these huge swaths of public land on the water that make us unlike any city in the world.
If Chicago actually got the bid, what would that mean for sailing?
Baxter: Teams would practice here for years prior, so competition and visibility would increase right away. For the actual Games, sailing would be at the center. In China we were a plane ride away, but here, the plan is about seizing the lakefront. Racing would be close to shore and we’d be very visible.
Will it change the lakefront?
Baxter: Yes. There would be a new break wall that doubles as a promenade from which you can see the city. To create the break wall is expensive and will take time, so they would probably close the harbor for two years. (The Park District has promised that boats in the harbor will have a home somewhere else.)
Closed for two years? That can’t have people too happy.
Baxter: Yeah, a lot of people don’t like the harbor being closed. Others are concerned about traffic, or that the jobs will be base on cronyism. It’s good that people are voicing the concerns now so we can address them.
What do you think the chances are of us getting the bid?
Baxter: They’re down to four cities, so technically it’s 25 percent. Tokyo has a compact plan, but some people think Japan is too close to China time wise. Same with Madrid and London in 2012. But Rio has never had the games – they’ve never been in South America! That alone may be enough to sway the votes.
What is the timeline on the Chicago bid?
Baxter: The decision will be made on October 2nd. But this bid, it’s not just Chicago’s bid. It’s America’s bid. The 2016 slogan, “Let friendship shine,” speaks to that. Friendship is what it’s all about – letting down our differences for the sake of friendly competition.