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Chicago’s failed bid and the amateur hour that followed

Yesterday Chicago lost in its bid to become an Olympic city in the first round of voting even after a personal appeal from Pres. and Mrs. Obama. GamesBids.com, a site that heavily watches such bidding competition, keeps a bid index that rates various aspects of a city’s bidding prospect. Going into the voting they raised Chicago’s chances to 61.24, up 1.23 points, but not enough to overtake Rio’s index of 61.42, a drop of 0.19 points. On Sept. 10th GamesBids.com had moved Chicago from last place to second place and Rio from second to first, overtaking Tokyo. What I find interesting and completely insane is how conservatives and conservative blogs have jumped on Obama after the loss as if he created the situation. Did these people all of a sudden become Olympic movement experts?

One great example of such stupidity is Right Wing Sparkle who made this more about Obama than the organizers did. What she doesn’t seem to realize, and I pointed this out in a comment that probably won’t be published, is that Obama did what Blair and Putin did for their country’s bids which resulted in awards as Olympic cities. I’m sure organizers appealed for his appearance in hopes that it might succeed like London over Paris, the odds on favorite for 2012. Chicago had a strong bid that opened their chances up against the other cities. If the chances were this close hopefully having the commitment of the country’s leader might help seal the deal.

Redstate pulled another bonehead move by using phrases like “whored ourselves out to the enemies” as if this was about national security. Comments following seem to be just as stupid in their understanding of the issues and why Chicago lost. Another entry at Redstate also seems to continue the arrogant attitude that has lead to one of the reasons Chicago lost so resoundingly in the first round. So to all the amateurs in the conservative blogosphere who seem to want to leverage this to make some political hay, let’s break it down in basic terms why Chicago lost.

First of all, it was not because of Obama’s appeal. If anything that may have helped garner a few more votes for Chicago. Going into the bidding Chicago was considered a strong favorite if you look at bid prospects and logistics. Details about the IOC evaluations has some interesting things noted. Public opinion for support of the games was third among the four cities, Tokyo being lowest. Chicago also was cited as having potential issues of financing the games, with a heavy reliance on public/private partnerships which the IOC has tended to discourage after the Atlanta games. The IOC also noted the significant investment Chicago would need to insure transportation needs during rush hour would be adequate to accommodate Olympic crowds.

Rio was noted as having strong governmental support, something IOC members tend to like. Rio also had strong public support for the games as well as having the 2014 World Cup as a good test of Rio’s ability to stage a major sporting event. However, Rio’s security challenges were also noted with a need to improve security throughout the city. Rio also needed to construct more venues than most which would require significant investment.

But in the end four factors played into the loss by Chicago starting with anti-American sentiment built up by the Bush administration and Olympic politics. Regarding the anti-American sentiment and arrogance one year is not enough time to recover from the years of Bush’s “go it alone” arrogance on world matters. Many countries have perceived America and Americans as arrogant and uncompromising, clearly not good attributes to have on the world stage. Obama has had less than a year to try to bring America back into the diplomatic stage of world affairs.

Secondly is the issue of Olympic politics, something San Antonio experienced first hand from Rio during bidding for the Pan Am Games of 2007. Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal cites some Olympic sources saying that Rio and Madrid worked to steer votes away from Chicago to Tokyo to knock out the front runner. Looking at the ballot by ballot tallies it is apparent that seemed to have happened as both Tokyo and Madrid garnered higher votes than Chicago even though their bids were considered third and fourth in the running. During the second ballot Tokyo lost two votes and Rio started the strong pull ahead as most, if not all, of Chicago’s votes went to Rio.

Finally two factors played in Rio’s favor. Rio would be the first time a South American city would host the Olympics, something the OCOG played up strongly during their presentations. This plays significant with the IOC, mostly made up of countries that have never hosted an Olympics. It would also break the North America-European block of host cities that some IOC members resent. Rio also presented an opportunity to leverage the Games as a way to improve the infrastructure and conditions of the city, as noted in the evaluation report. Considering many IOC members are from developing or emerging countries, this sentiment plays well in the minds of their voting members.

So, contrary to the conservative attitude in America, Obama didn’t lose the bid nor make a fool hearted attempt at winning the Games. If anything, their attitude and politics of the last eight years played against the Chicago bid. But then again I don’t think you’ll see any of them try to dig into the real issues. It’s just another opportunity to falsely snipe against Obama.

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  1. Robert Davidson
    October 5th, 2009 at 16:53 | #1

    I found this article \"Chicago’s Loss: Is Passport Control to Blame?\" (http://intransit.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/02/chicagos-loss-is-passport-control-to-blame/) and the accompanying discussion to be a fairly concrete reason why Rio won. Getting in and out of the US can be fairly hellish if you aren\’t a US citizen – care to be fingerprinted like a criminal anyone? A family friend from Switzerland was reduced to tears by a Houston DHS officer – and this is after spending 5 out of the last 7 years in the US!

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