Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mega-Project Redux

"...The Chicago 2016 Olympics committee leaders balked at the idea of publicly briefing the City Council about a wrinkle that could put taxpayers on the hook for cost overruns, but today tried to reassure alderman in a series of private meetings.."

Hal Dardick and David Heinzman, "Olympics bid team holding secret meeting with alderman," Chicagotribune.com, June 24, 2009.

Mega-project planning and implementation are distinguished by at least two features -- cost overruns and secrecy. Chicago 2016 Olympics planning is right on schedule. Other typical features include wildly optimistic attendance figures, the inflated economic value of residuals, and the ROI.

Chicago saw all these come together in the failure and collapse of the planned 1992 Worlds Fair. So the biz boys are at it again. They do have a problem. It is legitimately difficult to get all the numbers right at an early stage. If there is total public transparency, citizens see the mega project for what it is -- a physical manifestation of urban ego. And hence secrecy. But secrecy encourages curiosity. And so on.

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