At first, South Side resident Ebonee Stevenson was excited about Chicago as the potential 2016 host city. Then she weighed in city politics with its tradition of haves and have-nots, and her optimism waned. Stevenson works with a community group called Southside Together Organizing for Power, or STOP; her group joined in with the anti-Olympics effort-No Games Chicago. Stevenson says promises of Olympic accountability don’t resonate with her. STEVENSON: Given the history that Mayor Daley has with the south side communities-with Washington Park, with Woodlawn with tearing down the public housing, the Plan for Transformation, I don’t think we can trust our current mayor and city council. Two years ago she visited Atlanta, site of the 1996 Olympics. She wanted to hear from low-income residents there. One mother’s story stuck out. According to Switzerland-based nonprofit Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, the Atlanta Olympics displaced 68,000 people – most of them black. But earlier this year Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin dismissed that criticism when I asked her about displacement. She says neighborhoods were rebuilt, a claim that is challenged by Atlanta Olympic critics, who say housing prices soared and pushed people out.
STEVENSON: There’ll probably be a Whole Foods on the corner of 55th King Drive. There’ll probably be some workout center or things like that. But there won’t be housing that’s really affordable to people. There’ll be high price condos. And condos that won’t even be affordable to middle-class people but only affordable to high-income people.
I have a concern if having a game opens a city to possible terrorist attacks like it did 1996, and with people losing their homes and not being able to afford the communities that they are forced out of to come back to is it worth the price for all concern to host the games here. When you have an outcry from the residents of Chicago saying that they do not want the games held in their state, do you listen to the people who reside in this city and have business in this city or do you listen to who is to financially from the profits of hosting the games.
What is the value that is placed on a human life and lives of people who will be uprooted from their homes and community roots? Who is advocating for the rights of the poor and underprivileged that reside in the communities in Chicago and who is going to listen to the concerns of the residents that live there.
I would like to know, isn't there an island or some undeveloped land on this planet that the games can be held at, not just in 2016 but on a permanent basis? Is it truly necessary to uproot and destroy communities for the pleasure of saying that you hosted games?
For everyone that is hoping for the Olympic games to be held in the United States in 2016, I ask that you reconsider your position and think of the people and what we have already been through in this country in our history.