Insight Labs explore Chicago's missed opportunities for the NATO Summit

May 18, 2012

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In March of 2011, Jeff Leitner and Howell Malham Jr. of Insight Labs convened a Lab for World Sports Chicago. That's the organization that grew out of Chicago's failed bid for the Olympics. That experience opened up their eyes to all the things the city earned and learned just by bidding on-and losing-the Olympics.

They also realized how many folks in the region stood to benefit from the Olympics, and not just financially. Teachers would have created semester-long lesson plans centered on the  Olympics. Parents would have had ready-made role models for their kids right down the street. And Chicago would have joined the elite club of 'world-class' cities that have had the honor (which, admittedly, has been dubious at times-just ask the city of Atlanta and Richard Jewel) of playing host to those glorious Olympians.

They happily numbered all the reasons it made sense for Chicago to host the Olympics, and completely understood why the city would be proud to be affiliated with the Olympic brand.  Yet, Howell and Jeff couldn't think of any serious, apolitical reason that Chicago should be hosting NATO- other than to turning a city upside down for a while, bringing the batons and pepper spray out of storage, and jamming up or closing off a bevy of streets and highways so that motorcades bedecked with the various flags of Western Europe can zip around town with an ease that us little people can only dream of.

Malham says it's like "an international housewares show in a town that doesn't stand to benefit from the reflected glory of the housewares- or the show. Something elemental is missing for those of us who live here.  And, at this point, so is the über benefit-a benefit that is part and parcel with an event like the Olympics".

So with all that in mind, they're going to discuss what Chicago should have done-and can still do- with the NATO brand and experience, and identify the potential value of NATO, as it relates to Chicago. They'll also work their way through how best to apply and integrate those values, and discover what we can learn from this experience moving forward, as only one of two cities in the U.S. (D.C. is the other) that has hosted this summit.

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