Rio de Janeiro Knocked Out Chicago, Obama


I was not surprised that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) did not select Chicago or Madrid.

Many in the Windy City were devastated, and others throughout the United States also felt the pain of being told, “No, not you this time!”

Who would not want to have the world’s biggest collective gathering of humanity come to their town with an opportunity to showcase all that is good about that city?

It would have been cool to just scurry on down Interstate 94 to the city on Lake Michigan. But after I heard the news from Copenhagen that Chicago only received 18 of a possible 94 votes in the first round, I thought, “Sounds like the IOC.”

I have covered three Olympic Games, 2008 Beijing, 2000 Sydney and 1996 Atlanta. I know that the International Olympic folks feel pretty good about themselves, in that there is no other occurrence on this planet that brings together over 200 nations and countries in a spirit of peace and games.

Because of their elevated charge, they feel a social need to spread the wealth around.

I have no doubt that President Barack Obama gave a passionate and sincere appeal to the IOC. But unlike many others, I do not believe Chicago’s exclusion was a sign that the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) or Obama has or is losing the respect and influence it once had in the Olympic world.

The fact of the matter is the U.S. has hosted two of the last seven Olympic Games. (Atlanta in 1996 and Los Angeles in 1984.) The United States has hosted a total of eight games, more than any other country that total includes the Winter Games.

Tokyo’s effort comes behind two Asian powers who have recently hosted the Olympic Games – Beijing in 2008 and Seoul in 1988. Tokyo last hosted the Summer Games in 1964.

Madrid’s hard fought effort comes on the heels of another Spanish city, Barcelona, having hosted the 1992 Summer Olympic Games.

So it pains me to see politicians jumping at another chance to lambaste Obama and even blame him for grandstanding. Hey, he was fighting for Chicago to get the Games, but the last time I looked on a map, Chicago was in the United States. His plea was really for the entire country, vendors, athletes and people who could never afford to travel overseas would have gotten a chance to see and experience the world’s best chance at collectivism.

With 205 countries converging on the Great Lakes region before those Summer Games, college campuses around the state of Michigan undoubtedly would’ve been hosting foreign teams for pre-Olympic training camps and all surely could’ve seen a spike in tourism dollars. Reports note the Games would generate $3.8 billion in revenue here in the states, nearly one-third of that from sponsorship money.

The IOC used this Olympic moment to include South America in the world community.

In fact, when the 121st International Olympic Committee selected Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, the IOC made history by putting the games in South America for the first time. Brazil’s president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was ecstatic and his country’s people danced in the streets until daylight.

Chicago getting knocked out in the first round has many proclaiming this is one of the most shocking defeats ever handed down by the IOC.

I was not shocked or surprised. All one had to do was look at the history, especially the recent development of the Summer Games. When Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Summer Games and showed all how to market the Games and break even or even make a profit, the interest in hosting the Olympic Games shot through the roof.

In getting the Summer Olympics, Rio and its president played heavily on the fact that South America has never previously hosted the Games, while Europe, Asia and North America have done so repeatedly. Now, only Africa and Antarctica remain as continents that have not been awarded an Olympics.

I must admit that I was kind of sad seeing thousands of people in Chicago stand in Daley Center in stunned silence watching the IOC choose someone else for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

I was pulling for our Great Lakes neighbor, but I studied the history and I knew there was no way it was coming back to America so soon.

Leland Stein can be reached at

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