There's a lot of speculation on why Obama's lobbying trip to the IOC vote failed so spectacularly (Chicago finished last out of the final four), but who knows the real reason? Was Obama's lobbying too overbearing? Or was Obama in person underwhelming after all the hype? Or maybe Rio showed up with more hookers and blow? Who knows how it works these days?
Something you won't hear elsewhere, but may well have been going through the less venal IOC members minds when Obama arrived in Copenhagen is: "Yes, yes, I'm sure that African-American political triumphs, such as Obama's, are well worth handing out an Olympics to celebrate ... but we just did that 20 years ago when we gave the 1996 Olympics to Martin Luther King's hometown, Atlanta. The Atlanta Games were supposed to be a celebration of black political power (e.g., Mayor Andy Young) in alliance with American corporate power (e.g., Coke), in other words ... Diversity! ... but it was kind of a dud of an Olympics due to Atlanta being less than a bedazzling world class city, the typical hot and humid summer weather, and the widespread incompetence that accompanies diversity."
Here's just a part of Olympics spectator Ronald DuPont Jr.'s account of his experience in Atlanta:
"On my first night at the [1996 Atlanta] Olympics, the bus driver taking me and about 35 other people back to our cars got lost. Our half-hour trip took 1 1/2 hours, and we joked that we got the "scenic route." On my second night, another bus driver prepared to get on the wrong highway until a chorus of Atlanta natives on the bus yelled in unison, directing him to the correct road. Last night, on my way to the Olympics, our bus took the sideview mirror off a merging Jeep. (We pulled over to the side of the road and sat for a half-hour while police filled out their reports.) Then, when we got on the bus to head back, an Olympics representative got on the bus and publicly asked if there was anyone who could give our driver directions on how to get to the drop-off point. On the same night, a bus driver pulled to the side of the highway and promptly quit, saying the job was too dangerous. The lines to get on the buses are often thousands of people deep, and I've waited as long as an hour in the sun to board a bus. Welcome to what is being called the Glitch Games. The transportation problems have gotten so bad here that many foreigners and the foreign press are calling this one of the worst-run Olympics in terms of logistics. Take a look:
(In contrast, the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics were widely questioned by the media beforehand for a lack of diversity, but those non-diverse white people in Salt Lake City turned out to be -- amazingly enough -- well organized and ran a competent Olympics.)
London Daily Mail -- "Olympic Chaos."
Mexico City News -- "Atlanta Reels"
Los Angeles Times -- "Bum steers in Bumfuzzled Atlanta"
France-Soir -- "Africa has been deprived of the Games since their creation with the pretext that African countries don't have the necessary infrastructure. After Atlanta, any country in the world can apply to host the Games."
So, you can understand why somebody on the IOC might think of Chicago's bid as just Atlanta All Over Again. In contrast, nobody is going to call us racist if we snub Obama but give it to Rio, and Brazil seems to be getting their farming act together and they just found offshore oil, so, who knows, they may be in better financial shape than America in 7 years.
I would have gone to the 2016 Olympics in Chicago for old time's sake, but I probably wouldn't have wanted them if I still lived and paid taxes there. Chicago has enough problems without them. LA in 1984 was the sports facility capital of the world, and Mayor Tom Bradley was the only mayor in the world with the guts to bid for the 1984 games, so all LA had to do was take old reliable venues like the Coliseum, Rose Bowl, Dodger Stadium, Forum, Pauley Pavilion, Sports Arena, Santa Anita Racetrack, and countless others, and drape them in some color-coordinated "festive federalism" temporary decor and, by the low standards of 1984, put on a great Olympics.
Now, though, expectations about new construction have risen so far (for example, I suspect that Chinese pre-Olympic stockpiling of diesel fuel caused in large part the global oil price spike of the early summer of 2008 that killed off home prices in America's exurbs) that it's a mug's game to play.
Chicago does have a reasonable strategy for survival as a city (i.e., not turn into Detroit), which is to finish off tearing down all the public housing and then use Section 8 rental vouchers to drive the welfare class off into the lower rent midwestern hinterlands. Call it Parisification, where the affluent live in the city and poor are warehoused somewhere elsewhere, out of sight, to amuse themselves setting cars on fire without interrupting the good life in the city. Mayor Daley has been studying Paris on numerous visits for 20 years.
There's a quiet Darwinian war going on among American cities to determine who will be the winners (for example, the white population of Washington D.C. went up about 20% just from 2000 to 2007) and who will be the losers (e.g., Baltimore gets some of the poor folks driven out of DC by gentrification). The Olympics were supposed to help Chicago in this struggle by making the city more fashionable with young upper middle class people, but who knows whether that really matters. Barcelona seemed to get a boost out of it, but it's not clear that Atlanta did.
Anyway, Rio is a spectacular site for a city -- imagine Yosemite Valley on the ocean. In 1978, I sat at a cafe on the Copacabana Beach. Four blocks inland, a vertical granite wall rose straight up from a street of boutiques. Five hundred feet above the traffic, three roped up rock-climbers were making their ascent, clinging to the rock by the their fingernails.
August is an excellent time to hold the Olympics in Rio -- 70ish highs and about as dry and sunny as it gets there. Much better than, say, the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta in July-August. Apparently, the locals snookered the IOC members into thinking that Atlanta had mild summers -- perhaps they gave the impression it was at 900 meters altitude rather than 900 feet. Or maybe they just provided the biggest bribes, I don't know.
Good luck with the crime, Rio.