Brief belated Olympic selection reaction

I realize that a lot more comes into an Olympic host selection than just the appeal of the leaders of each respective country whose cities are in the running. Yet I feel strangely disturbed that Obama’s appeal to the IOC turned out to be a non-factor in Friday’s vote for the right to host 2016 Olympics.

More than two years ago, before Obama phenomenon was in full swing, I made a semi-joking assessment (near the end of this post) that whoever would be a US President today, he/she should be able to easily bring home the bacon, on the basis of who the competition were. As it turns out, whatever goodwill and adulation the outside world has for the President, it did not translate into victory in this particular case. And I felt that his appeal to the rest of the world was an important factor…

10 comments on “Brief belated Olympic selection reaction”

  1. Random Michelle

    I have to disagree. I think this had nothing to do with Obama, and everything to do with Madrid and Rio.

    First, part of Madrid’s bid was that after the Olympics, many of the buildings would be turned into fixed income housing. That may well have been why Madrid took the first round.

    But from there, as I expected, Rio won the games, and to be honest I see this is a good thing. The Olympics have never been held in South America. Never. That’s an embarrassing oversight for a group that is supposed to be global. Yes, Rio has problems, but I personally am happy to see the Olympics finally going to South America.

  2. Eric

    I think it also has something to do with Chicago: it appears that the population of Chicago was divided over the bid, with a number of Chicagoans actively trying to get Chicago’s bid rejected. It’s hard to believe the Olympics committee was unaware of the situation and that if the city was awarded the Olympics, the support from the city would be partial at best (not to mention that it seems some of the opposed Chicagoans’ points seem to have merit).

    See also:
    http://www.slate.com/id/2231173/
    http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2009/10/02/chicago_olympics/index.html

  3. WendyB_09

    Much as I love Chicago, it has baggage, and even the Obamas’ couldn’t overcome all of that. Too much bad politicos & violence in the news lately, especially the latter the last couple of weeks. And, although Atlanta was divided (but not as much as Chicago was) on their bid back in 1990, we still got it. First time for a Southern city, huge coup!

    Rio will have a significant place in Olympic history being the first South American city to host the Olympics. They’ve got a huge task in front of them and I wish them luck!

    I do remember standing at a new job, we were broadcasting the radio feed over the store speakers, with tears streaming down my face when they announced “the city of Atlanta”. What a feeling. Helped with various prep projects and then volunteered for both the Olympics & Special Olympics.

    Even ended up in the entourage for the Queen Sophia of Spain during the SO. One of the royal daughters is visually impaired, and the Spanish Royal family is the biggest supporter of the Spanish Special Olympics Team! And had you met the Queen on the street, you would never have known she was a Royal. Very cool and down to earth, it was blistering hot that week and she always made sure we came into the venues with her and got drinks and snacks. We were supposed to stay with the vehicles, but who’s going to say no to the Queen!

  4. Vince

    A lot of the GOP feels that the Obama lobbying demeaned the office of the presidency (which I think is nonsense myself).

    According to some news reports I’ve read, there was also an issue with the fact that going through U.S. customs can be harrowing for foreigners. Another things I’ve seen mention was the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics bribery scandal.

  5. Eric

    No doubt if Obama hadn’t said anything at all about the Olympics, the GOP would have found fault with that. Basically, there is nothing that this President could possibly do that would make the GOP happy. If he invoked dark necromantic powers to resurrect Ronald Reagan and gave him the Presidency, the GOP would bitch that Obama was a graverobber and showed no respect for the remains and legacies of former presidencies.

    I think I’ve reached the point where if anyone from the GOP actually offered a legitimate criticism of the President, I’d just tune it out because of “Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf” syndrome. See, that’s the problem when you entertain birthers and babble about death panels–credibility goes out the window.

    Not that the Olympics thing is a legit criticism–I’m with you Vince, it’s nonsense.

  6. Kisintin

    Hailing from the loosing city, I must admit that I have no strong emotions about it. I’ll admit that having Olympics nearby, would be interesting at the least, and my personal stance is that any sort of Internation Event of this magnitute can improve the city’s economics.

    Still, I have $10 riding on the Vikes/Packers game and that is where emotions are riding high for me.

  7. Brian Greenberg

    As a Republican, I’ll tread carefully so that Eric doesn’t tune me out. 😉

    Since Chicago was rejected, I’ve heard everything from blaming Obama and Oprah, to blaming racism (an international community voting against an African-American?), to blaming George W. Bush (payback from the IOC for Bush’s eight years of international blunders). Like the other commenters above, I think that all of this is nonsense.

    The only valid point in all of this, IMHO, is that President Obama’s “celebrity,” even in Europe, has its limits. It seems he can’t just snap his fingers and get what he wants all the time. If this experience helps to more realistically set expectations in this regard, then it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

  8. Ilya

    You guys possibly missed my point, which was I expected Obama’s appeal to overcome any shortcomings of the Chicago bid and possibly put it on top similar to what Blair and Putin arguably did for London and Sochi, respectively, in the last two previous votes. The fact that Chicago was the first city eliminated indicated that his appeal was nowhere close enough to overcome those shortcomings coupled with putative animosity of certain blocs to the US. My reaction was purely to the limitations of Obama’s international appeal, not to the merits of various bids nor to apportion any blame to him.

  9. Eric

    Ilya, I think the common thread in our responses is that Chicago’s rejection may have absolutely nothing to do with Obama one way or another. I don’t think what happened reflects on Obama one way or the other–Chicago’s shortcomings were so overwhelming that the main debate I’ve seen has been over which shortcoming was the actual final nail in the city’s coffin, and (as others have pointed out here and elsewhere) on the other side of the balance is some consensus that Rio was due for a number of reasons–both symbolic and pragmatic.

    By the way, I agree with Brian completely that Obama’s “celebrity” has its limits. What’s curious to me is that I think Obama and most of his supporters acknowledge this in various ways, and didn’t take it as particularly surprising that he couldn’t snap his fingers with the Olympics committee. It seems like it’s mostly certain critics and pundits who are attempting, again, to treat Obama’s popularity as some sort of liability. But being liked is rarely enough in and of itself to get anything accomplished.

  10. Sharon

    Just to add my belated two cents, I don’t think Eric and Brian are necessarily disagreeing. As Wendy said, Chicago does have baggage. But when it came right down to it, I’m hazarding a guess that South America was always among the strongest contender. They might even thank Obama for that, as a spirit of inclusiveness and rethinking isolation seems afoot. South America’s been left out of Olympic hosting considerations for a very long time. (I admit I don’t know if they’ve given it much of a shot in the past). Methinks it was just their turn. Truthfully, I think is apropos.

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