Nine community activists have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice charging the Mayor, the Chicago Park District and Chicago 2016 with racial discrimination in the siting of Olympic venues.
The Chicago Olympic bid puts of the heaviest burden on three major parks in low-income African-American communities, denying residents use of the park over a period of years for venues that will be constructed and then torn down after the Olympics, they charge. Only one venue is sited in a park in a predominantly white community — the tennis competition will take place on courts in Lincoln Park.
In Washington Park and elsewhere, Olympic spectators will be shuttled in and out of events, with virtually no economic benefit for surrounding communities. Chicago 2016 developed the siting plans and the Chicago Park District approved them with no input from residents, according to the complaint.
“I think the Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee has stolen parks in low-income African-American neighborhoods because they think we will just be quiet and take it, while white and more affluent neighborhoods wouldn’t tolerate it,” said Michael Johnson, who coaches a youth football team in Washington Park.
Wealthier areas of the city “would never tolerate extensive shutdowns and construction,” said South Side activist Toni Stith. Washington and Douglas Parks currently provide the only recreational resources in their respective communities.
While the Olympics have been promoted as a private enterprise requiring no public funding, “think of what they’d have to pay if they wanted to rent these parks for so many years at a fair rate,” said education advocate Don Moore.