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It's OK to Cheer the Races 

You can be hopeful and positive while the event passes through without abandoning your concerns.

Inside the Greater Richmond Convention Center at the Fan Fest Zone, fans cheer for the USA cycling team’s first-place victory in the elite men’s time trial.

Scott Elmquist

Inside the Greater Richmond Convention Center at the Fan Fest Zone, fans cheer for the USA cycling team’s first-place victory in the elite men’s time trial.

It’s too simplistic to debate whether the good citizens of Richmond should get aboard the bike-race bandwagon, ringing their cowbells with joy as some sort of civic duty.

What you can do: Hope that everyone is safe and nothing else gets stolen. Hope that things will go as smoothly as possible. Hope that merchants, museums, restaurants and community groups will make the most of the opportunity, which they seem to be doing with sheer will and creativity. Hope that Richmond will end with some kind of net positive. Hope that visitors will see something that makes them return with more tourist dollars. And have you noticed how spectacular the city looks on television?

But let’s also remember that this event didn’t happen as the result of a community-wide vote. That it’s OK to ask tough questions about a return on investment when our city and taxpayer resources, money, energy and time are being invested and diverted. That it’s OK to wonder how this event fits into our city’s priorities and vision -- if leaders have ever explained that to us -- especially at a time when schools are crumbling, City Hall cannot complete an audit on time, business leaders are off-sync about an independent children's hospital, and the region cannot find a way to work together to solve such age-old problems as where to put a baseball stadium. And that it’s OK to be concerned that business owners are being affected by the races in ways they may not have anticipated.

And what are the benchmarks for success, besides the impossible to quantify “public exposure” line, or the typically fantastical economic multipliers plugged into expensive computer models by high-paid consultants?

Good luck to everyone -- especially Ben King, a Central Virginia cyclist worth rooting for. Ring your cowbell for now, look toward the rainbows and hope for the best.

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