We recently saw large-scale project management in action, during the NATO Summit in Chicago on May 20-21. Staging that event certainly required a great deal of project management, risk assessment and contingency planning. Many Chicagoans felt the event was not worth the hassle (although Deloitte’ economic study projected a $128.2 million impact). While the event was a huge pain, I can’t say the project was implemented poorly. The police invested over $1 million in riot-control equipment and spent months training. The CPD performance was generally well-received. I do think the police could have done a better done containing the protestors, during the event the media coverage made you feel like the protestors were everywhere. As a safety precaution, the city installed new trashcans. There were many street and highway closures. That information was communicated through media outlets, a website set up by the city and the “Notify Chicago” system. The street closures very inconvenient, but I don’t know a better alternative was available. Business appeared to be well prepared as well. I found it interesting that Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Roper was mocked for suggesting in January that businesses may need to board up windows and have employees work for home. By May, many businesses were installing bullet-proof glass, closing offices or urging employees to dress down to avoid being targeted by protests. Generally, the organization of the Summit itself was well-received. As the Sun-Times said “By not failing, Emanuel and Chicago succeeded.”
Now that you’ve had time to digest the NATO Summit, what do you think? Do you think Chicago would have been better without the event? Was the event a success operationally? Do you have any thoughts about specific aspects that could have been planned better?
A great deal of the proposed benefit was elevating Chicago on the world scene. My general sense is Chicago is not viewed as world-city. Organizers of the 2016 Olympic bid were disappointed Chicago did not resonate more with IOC members – they simply didn’t view Chicago as one of the world’s great cities. And while many foreign journalists praised Chicago, I don’t think the awareness created by NATO will translate into tangible benefits.
Also now that the images from protests are not fresh, I think the event was organized fairly well.