Chicago Won’t Get Olympics
Chicago was eliminated in the first ballot of voting for the 2016 Olympics on Friday, a stunning defeat for the city that was expected to be one of the two finalists. Not even the presence of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama — nor a long list of celebrities — was enough to help the United States’ third-largest city.
Chicago had seemed to pick up momentum in the last few days, with many International Olympic Committee members seemingly charmed by Mrs. Obama. But when IOC president Jacques Rogge announced the results of the first vote, Chicago’s name was announced.
That’s a breaking news update to this story from earlier:
Looking out at the International Olympic Committee members, President Barack Obama grinned.
“This could be a meeting in Chicago,” he said, “because we look like the world.”
Hoping to persuade the IOC to award Chicago the 2016 Olympics, Obama and his wife led a heartfelt and, at times, very personal plea Friday. Instead of stodgy technical details, discussions of finances or computer-generated graphics, Chicago took members inside the city to show why it should win the games.
Obama spoke of finally finding a home in Chicago after a nomadic childhood. Michelle Obama recounted how, growing up on the city’s South Side, her disabled father taught her how to throw a ball and a “mean right hook.”
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley invoked the memory of Jesse Owens. “Like so many young people, I was inspired” by the Olympics, the first lady said. “I found myself dreaming that maybe, just maybe, if I worked hard enough, I, too, could achieve something great. But I never dreamed the Olympic flame might light up lives in my neighborhood. But today I can.”
Well, not anymore. It’ll be interesting to see the postmortem on this. The U.S. has hosted a summer Olympics rather recently, Atlanta 1996, and it was viewed as a disaster by many overseas. Maybe, despite Obama’s pleas, it just wasn’t our turn yet. Or, maybe, having the president throw his weight behind it so enthusiastically backfired?
UPDATE: Blame it on Rio.
Finally, South America gets an Olympics. The 2016 Games are going to Rio de Janeiro. In a vote of high drama, the bustling Brazilian carnival city of beaches, mountains and samba beat surprise finalist Madrid, which got a big helping hand from a very influential friend.
Chicago was knocked out in the first round — in one of the most shocking defeats ever in International Olympic Committee voting. Even Tokyo, which had trailed throughout the race, did better — eliminated after Chicago in the second round.
Rio spoke to IOC members’ consciences: the city argued that it was simply unfair that South America has never hosted the games, while Europe, Asia and North America have done so repeatedly. “It is a time to address this imbalance,” Brazil’s charismatic president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, told the IOC’s members before they voted. “It is time to light the Olympic cauldron in a tropical country.”
Clearly, having presidents address the committee isn’t a disqualifier.