'Unlympics' participants poke fun at Chicago's Olympic bid

What’s more fun than a weekend of amateur ribbon dancing?

Three more weekends of silliness.

Welcome to the Unlympics, a month-long series of quirky sporting events aimed at encouraging debate about Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics.

More than one million people have pledged their support to getting the games here, but cultural critic Anne Elizabeth Moore and artist Matthew Joynt are drawing attention to what they see as an undemocratic process by which the local Olympic Committee has gone about trying to get the games.

Moore is the current person-in-residence at InCUBATE, short for Institute for Community Understanding Between Art and The Everyday, a research institute that consists of a group of three administrators that organize events and projects at a storefront space in the Congress Theatre building at 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Moore came up with the name Unlympics. It sits somewhere between the actual Olympics and the movement against the Olympics called Nolympics.

“I’m calling for a re-insurgence of democracy into the process of getting the 2016 games here,” Moore says.

She says, “People haven’t been given a vote. We’ve been given notice that it’s too late to vote. That’s how democracy gets eroded.”

Members of the city’s Olympic Committee have said the process has been open and fair. Earlier this week, the group met with about 100 residents at the Union League Club, explaining the process and listening to questions and concerns.

Chicago is competing against Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo to host the games. Once the official bid book is submitted to the IOC on Feb. 12, IOC officials will begin a weeklong visit to Chicago on April 2.

Chicago 2016 officials will make a presentation to the IOC in June and the IOC will make its final decision on a host city on Oct. 2.

The bid is privately funded, but Mayor Richard Daley has said that he will use tax-increment financing to pay for the development of Olympic Village to be built on the Michael Reese Hospital site in Bronzeville.

John Murray, vice president and chief of bid operations for Chicago 2016, gave an overview of the benefits the games will bring to Chicago at the Union League event earlier this week.

However, details of how the city will deal with transit, housing and public safety were scarce during his presentation.

With this in mind, Moore is using her person-in-residency at InCUBATE to organize the Unlympics and has gathered a number of sponsors to be in charge of each weekend’s events. Sponsors tie specific issues to a specific sporting event in the Unlympics.

Moore has been involved in events in Seattle, where she once lived, that are in a similar vein to the Unlympics. For example, an event called the "Pie-Off" doubled as an eating contest and an exploration of way in which baked goods could be judged.

She has done a number of long-term projects that raised questions about issues she feels strongly about and is very excited about processes that create and then violate structures based on individual participation.

The opening ceremony took place last Saturday at InCUBATE. A about 40 people turned up, most of them dressed for the Parade of Notions, in which participants wore costumes depicting their ethnic, geographic or political identity and shuffled around the block.

Nell Taylor was dressed up as the Notion of Procrastination. She declared that, “No one is better at celebrating sports than a bunch of artist with s--- on their heads.”

Laurie Jo Reynolds, a sponsor of the Emotional Games program, said this of the opening night’s events: “It’s a great vibe and it communicates a really important issue with levity.”

This weekend, the Unlympics continues. The schedule of events remains whimsical and eclectic, playing off and twisting traditional Olympic games and themes.

For example, Saturday there is a “Run Around The Block And We’ll Time You” event, billed as a track meet for anyone willing to participate. There’s also a “Class Conscious Kickballl/Fashion Competition.”

Organizers say the events will be somewhere in Washington Park in the Hyde Park neighborhood, but the exact location has yet to be determined. Consult the organization's Web site.

On Feb. 7, community members can participate in a Spelling Bee and award ceremony. On Feb. 14, people get together to discuss social justice issues and for “solitary confinement games.” Events include “duration jump-roping,” “stop, drop and roll,” and “synchronized multiplication.”

According to the official Chicago 2016 Web site, we're 244 days away from a decision.

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