COPENHAGEN — The International Olympic Committee stunned the city of Chicago by eliminating the Windy City in the first round of voting to determine which city hosts the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Some observers had proclaimed Chicago was a favorite to land the games, thanks to the presence of President Obama and the First Lady, but America's Second City was the first city eliminated of the final four bidders. Tokyo was the next to fail to make the cut. Member of the IOC will now choose between Madrid and Rio de Janeiro.
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A number of TradMedia outlets, including this morning's Boston Globe, had theorized that Chicago's losing the bid would somehow damage the credibility and reputation of President Obama. IMO, they made that false assumption without understanding the messy geopolitics within the IOC and the Olympic movement in general:
Acting as if he were head of the Chicago chamber of commerce, not the leader of the United States, President Obama is traveling hat in hand to meet with the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen today. He’s pushing for his hometown to host the 2016 Games. In case the judges aren’t dazzled by him and his wife, Michelle, he’s got Oprah Winfrey to help seal the deal. Chicago has much to gain from the Olympics, and no doubt all Americans would love to see the Games on US soil. Obama may help deliver the prize. But he risks diminishing the prestige of his office by mobilizing it behind this narrow cause. And it seems at least possible that some judges will feel so put off by his hard sell that they’ll opt for one of the other finalists.
Of course, the Globe intentionally omitted the fact that each of the heads of state of the final bidders attended the presentations in Copenhagen, so all POTUS was doing was putting Chicago on equal footing with the other bid cities. Moreover, had Obama declined to go, the very same people who criticized him for going, would have ripped into him for NOT going had Chicago still failed to get selected.
The reality is that Chicago was never the favorite except for uninformed members of the media that are ignorant of the Olympics and their history. To date, NO Olympics have ever been held in South America, and the pressure to select Rio is very strong. The fact that Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup certainly won't hurt Rio's chances either.
Rio played up the wow factor of its fabulous scenery, with computer-generated bird's eye images of how venues would be spread across the city, with sailing in the shadow of Sugar Loaf mountain and volleyball on Copacabana beach. The governor of the central bank said Brazil's economic vibrancy should reassure IOC members, and the head of Rio state played down concerns over security.
But Rio's hardest sell was that the IOC could ignore South America no longer.
"It is a time to address this imbalance," Silva said. "It is time to light the Olympic cauldron in a tropical country."
Our major international sporting events are trying to select new and different locales. For example, next year's World Cup will be in South Africa. The previous Summer Olympics were in China.
Madrid may be an excellent candidate, but I believe it will not be chosen, purely on the IOC's desire to not hold back-to-back Olympics on the same continent. The 2012 games will be held in London, which twice hosted the Olympics (1908 and 1948).
Tokyo may have been eliminated because it too hosted the Olympics, but that was in 1964.
No doubt Wingnuttia will be rejoicing at what they perceive as an epic fail by POTUS. The failure is Chicago's; not President Obama's. Opposition groups and a budget deficit by the city of Chicago probably played a huge role in the decision to not choose Chicago.
In 1990, the group sent representatives to Tokyo, where the IOC held its final vote, to demonstrate. Atlanta was awarded the 1996 Games, and Toronto finished third in voting. On Friday morning, Bread Not Circuses showed the IOC commission a video depicting ``Toronto's homeless disaster.'' ``This film footage is real and it's just from last month,'' said Cathy Crowe, also from the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee. ``One of the things we wanted to do is expose Toronto's dirty little secret, which is the homeless disaster.'' The coalition says the city would be better served constructing affordable housing on the land earmarked for Olympic venues rather than have billions spent on the Games. ``There seemed to be quite an interest (from the IOC commission) in the points we were making,'' said Jan Borowy, one of the founding members of the coalition. ``They took notes throughout.'
Following the successful tactics of Bread not Circuses, No Games Chicago sent representatives to Copenhagen hoping to influence IOC voters. It appears they were successful.
This was how member Tom Tresser described the group at Huffington Post:
Our purpose then and now is to take a simple message to the members of the IOC -- the people of Chicago do not want the 2016 Olympics. 84% don't want them, according to a recent poll conducted by the Chicago Tribune. 45% don't want the games under any circumstances and 84% don't want public funds used for the party. Since the city has already spent or committed over $240 million for the games (see our tally at the end of this piece), that threshold has already been crossed. Hence 84% of the people of Chicago oppose the bringing of the 2016 Olympics to Chicago, That's a big number, too big, we think, to be ignored.
We ddn't come on a chartered jet and we're not wearing clothes designed by the First Lady's dress maker. No TV crews saw us off and none will welcome us back. We did grassroots fund raising up the last moment to pay for the trip.
White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Obama's appearance before the IOC was not enough to overcome "politics inside that room" and other factors he believed weighed against Chicago's bid, reported ESPN Chicago.
"Obviously it was disappointing," Axelrod, a former Chicago journalist, told CNN. "It didn't work out but it was worth the effort."
"I don't view this as a repudiation of the president or the first lady," he added.
Indeed, ESPN Chicago actually reported why Chicago failed — unlike their counterparts in the TradMedia.
The European-dominated IOC's last two experiences in the United States were marred by controversy: the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics were sullied by a bribery scandal and logistical problems and a bombing hit the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
The last U.S. city to bid for the Summer Games, New York, did scarcely better. It was ousted in the second round in the 2005 vote that gave the 2012 Games to London. The U.S. Olympic Committee has had a testy relationship with the IOC, including recent flare-ups over revenue sharing and a USOC TV network.
I'm willing to bet that neither of those paragraphs will appear in ANY RW website or even in most newspapers either, but those factors, plus the allure of Rio are why Chicago failed. President Obama was not one of these reasons — much to the chagrin of those elated wingnuts cheering when Chicago's hopes of igniting the Olympic flame were snuffed out.
UPDATE: Rio beat Madrid in the final vote. Brazil will be the first nation in South America to host the Olympics. Congratulations to the people of Rio and the citizens of Brazil. Good luck.