The Rio Olympics will be over in three days. Thank God. I usually enjoy the games but this year is different. That’s because this year the Olympics are in Brazil….and not Chicago. Most folks probably don’t remember this but eight years ago Chicago put in a bid to host the 2016 Olympics and the city made it all the way to the Top 4. I live in the Chicago area and I thought the bid was an amazing idea. I guess things worked out for the best but I’m still disappointed that “we” didn’t get the games. (Most of the grimey hipsters I knew were against the whole thing for typical, dumb hipster reasons like “all the decent bars are gonna be packed for two weeks, eight years from now, man!”)
Anyway, one day, way back in the fall of 2008, I was walking through the loop and I saw a billboard that said the Chicago Bid Committee was hosting a video contest. To enter, people had to shoot videos that explained “Why Chicago” would be a great place for the 2016 games. First prize was a trip for two to Vancouver to see the preparations (yes, just the preparations) for the 2010 Winter Olympics. But second prize….second prize was $5,000 in video production gear.
At that point I had entered and won just one online video contest. I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime windfall and I didn’t realize that anyone else was running them. I didn’t want to go to Vancouver but I sure as heck wanted to win five grand in camera gear. So I set my sites on second prize. There was just one problem; I didn’t own a video camera. So I went to Walmart and bought a little handycam for $350. I ran around town and got a bunch of footage and then I wrote some voice-over to match the footage. Here’s my entry:
I can’t really remember what happened next but I think I made a Top 5 or Top 10. Then there was a public vote phase that I tanked on purpose. I told people to also vote for the video in first so that I could never pass them. My plan worked and I wound up winning second prize.
Instead of $5,000 in production gear, the Bid Committee gave me a $5,000 gift certificate for Amazon.com. I used that sucker to buy myself the camera I had wanted for years, a DVX-100 plus a refurbished Mac and some lighting and audio gear. And let me tell you, that gear changed my life. I lost my job in early 2009 when the economy crashed but in those dark days I was able to make a nice living shooting goofy videos for online contests. So even though Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid was a bust, it really wound up saving my ass.
Oh and camera I bought from Walmart? Yeah, I returned it after I shot my video. So thanks Walmart I guess you and your liberal return policies saved my ass too.