October 01, 2009

The Olympics: Chicago or Rio in 2016?

After the American Century

Tomorrow, in Copenhagen, the International Olympic Committee will decide where the 2016 Olympics will be held. I gather that the odds makers think Tokyo has little chance of getting it and Madrid only slightly better prospects. Apparently the real battle is between Brazil and the United States, or Rio and Chicago.

I would be happy to see the games held in either nation. As an American, I certainly can see Chicago as a good choice. I spent considerable time there in 2003, and was impressed by the city's continued growth and resilience. On the other hand, I have to admit that it seems unfair that no Olympics have ever been held anywhere in South America - though they were once in Mexico, which is Latin America but still part of North America.

There is another argument for Brazil that goes like this. The 2012 summer games are going to be held in London. Is it a good thing to have the games in the United States right after they are in Britain? Shouldn't they be moving around to different cultural and linguistic zones?

What does not come out in the all too brief news stories I have seen, is any detail about the actual facilities these nations are prepared to build or already have on hand. This is not only about the sporting facilities, but also the airports, security systems, hotels, roads, and public transport. Then there is the question of the safety of these cities. Where is the rate of robbery and petty crime high and low? Tokyo might have the edge on that particular issue, for example. Unfortunately, the public does not get a detailed explanation of why a particular city was chosen. London beat Paris last time, in 2005, but it was hard to see why.

We will soon know the result, and of course it could be any one of the four applicants. I have a sneaking suspicion that President Obama would not be coming personally to represent his home town if he did not think there was an excellent chance of success. But then, the President of Brazil came too.