Opening Remarks, AEM for the UOC

Welcome to the Winter 2009 Unlympic Games Opening Day Ceremonies!

The vision of the Unlympic Games first came to me in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1996, while I was working on another—a different—sports festival called the Olympics. To give you a little background, the Olympics were originally thought to be a non-political global meeting-ground for people who liked their fun good and clean. More recently, they’ve been thought of as a massively organized, extremely well-funded sports-themed party primarily attended by the wealthy that acts as an alliance-builder between corporations and athletes to market products to American television-viewing audiences.


Because of this, a massive resistance movement has sprung up, the Nolympic Movement. In recent years, the Nolympics has effectively stopped the Olympics from coming to cities such as Amsterdam, caused Tokyo to reconsider their own bid for the 2016 Games, and created a vast infrastructure for documenting the damage done to communities in Vancouver in the lead up to the 2010 Games next Winter.


Anyway, one day in Atlanta, wandering the city deserted of residents and only populated by tourists, walking along the sidewalks of the Olympic Village already crumbling just a few days into the Games, I thought to myself, Did anyone think about this?

And from this question, the Unlympic Movement was born. Not the Olympics, and not the Nolympics, the Unlympics simply poses a series of questions: What rules govern the competition for the 2016 Olympic bid? Do we Chicagoans agree to them? If not, how do we change them? The Unlympics poses these questions through a series of public games, some of which have set and standard rules, some of which we’re going to have to make up as we go along, and some of which have been predetermined, because it’s funny, and sometimes life is like that anyway. The fun-loving spirit of healthy sport guides the Unlympic Spirit.


But the Unlympics is not all about sports. The Unlympics is built on three mighty pillars: Sports, Culture, and the Environment. The Environment, we completely ignore. That’s just what we do. And Culture, well, we do have some art over here by Michael Hunter, Lord of the Rings. And the rest of this lovely Opening Day in which we celebrate Sports through Art. So mostly, I guess, we really are about Sports. I’ll just—sorry I said that earlier. The pillar thing, I don’t know what that’s about.

The Unlympic Movement, however, is all about you. You are some of the most talented, creative, and intelligent people in this city, and you have come together to celebrate our voice in our city’s future. No matter how you feel about the 2016 bid, you will be impacted by it, as soon as February 12, when the bid book is due the International Olympic Committee, or as late as October 2, when the IOC will make their final decision on who will host the 2016 Games, and Chicago will already have spent $100mn on the blazin’ hot trail for the torch.

That being said, there are some of you who lent your voices to the earliest planning stages of the Unlympic Games, and made in-kind donations amounting to the tens of dollars, and I must thank you: Anne Glickman, of the Anne Glickman Dancers; Liz Mason of Shameless Karaoke; Kristin Cox of the Chicago Working Group on Extreme Inequality; Joe Zarrow, of Joe Zarrow Incorporated, Aay Preston-Mint of No Coast; Abigail Satinsky, Bryce Dwyer, and Roman Petruniak of InCUBATE; and Matthew Joynt, my co-secretary on the Unlympics Organizing Committee. Without your generous gifts of time and attention, none of the glory we’re all feeling right now would have been possible.

Except for the Spelling Bee on February 7, which costs $5 to compete in, the Unlympics is a free sporting event series. However, in the interest of creating a model of transparency, just in case any other sports festivals out there want to, you know, consider some other options, I must inform you that the Unlympics Organizing Committee has invested close to $75 in supplies, and owes approximately $125 in rent on this space. So far. Should you be interested in making a donation, the Treasury of the Unlympic Games—this coffee can—would be thrilled to meet with you.


Despite the seemingly unanimous support for the Chicago 2016 bid, support that is not evidenced by our own polls—we Chicagoans must consider our options as we approach February 12: Will we sit back and watch an eventual $1bn—some from our own taxes—be spent during an unprecedented economic recession on a massive sports festival seven years away? Shall we monitor the bid, demand representation, and introduce legislation that enforces the construction of a socially just Olympic Village? Or do we refuse to host—or pay for—the 2016 Olympic Games, and work toward making our voices heard and our bodies seen and our votes count, in our own homes?


These are the questions you will grapple with throughout the Winter 2009 Unlympic Games. Other questions—How do I play this? Why are you wearing that ridiculous outfit? How can I find out more?—can be answered by our handy Official Program and Rulebook. 


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