Friday, October 2, 2009

Blame it on Rio?

So the $10 million-plus trip was all for naught. Neither the visage of Hope & Change™, the supreme “sacrifice” Mrs. Obama made, nor the presence of The Oprah was enough.

The sad news for Chicago was that it lost out on the 2016 Olympic games to Rio de Janeiro, despite – for the first time in history – a U.S. president (and a First Lady) traveling overseas and pleading the case before the international community – this time in Copenhagen, Denmark. (By the way, that’s the same community of people who would love America better if we elected the community organizer from Illinois/New York/California /Indonesia /Hawaii.)

For the record, Tokyo – which has previously hosted the Summer Games - also lost (reportedly due to the IOC’s fears of Godzilla wreaking havoc at some of the Olympic venues). Additionally, Madrid tried winning a second Summer Games for Spain, but apparently its king hasn’t had the same kind of pull since Sir Francis Drake took out his ancestor’s armada (which left many Spaniards calling for an immediate return of Generalissimo Francisco Franco!).

So that left Rio, which won it over Madrid in a final-round landslide that was only slightly more suspenseful than the first round of questions on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

Ah, Rio: home of the thong bathing suit, the Brazilian wax job, the Girl from Ipanema and Brazil nuts…oh, yeah, and an annual murder rate that makes Chicago’s look like The Amateur Hour. My question about Rio is this: OK, it’s in the southern hemisphere where their seasons are reversed from ours…so will this be held in our winter? If so, does that mean bobsleds on Copacabana Beach?

It will be interesting to see what Rio, perhaps one of the most vibrant cities in the world as well as one of the most violently divided between rich and poor, does to mitigate its many “challenges.” Will the stultifying and violence-inducing poverty of its slums – the favela – be kept out of the television cameras’ frames? Perhaps the Brazilian government will carry on the great pre-Olympics tradition of host countries forcibly relocating, jailing or killing “undesirables” and political dissidents.

It also will be interesting to see the legacy the Olympic Games leave Rio once the torch is extinguished and the IOC pulls up stakes. Los Angeles, home of the 1984 Games, monetized the heck out of the quadrennial spectacle and to this day programs throughout the area still financially benefit from those Games. On the other hand, the Athens Games celebrating the Olympics Centennial in 2004 put such a huge financial burden on Greece that the European Union downgraded Greece’s credit rating to “California.”

Frankly, I’m a tad surprised Chicago was passed over (and in the first round at that – heck, Chicago didn’t even make it to the Miss Congeniality part of the beauty pageant). I couldn’t imagine the president would’ve wasted all that political capital if it wasn’t a done deal before he showed up to speechify to the International Olympic Committee. I mean, why fly two Air Force jets (Air Force One for him and the First Lady Special for her), ship Secret Service and advance people overseas and leave a significant carbon footprint if it wasn’t a sure thing?

Of course he was under great pressure to go. As The One, the wheels are already in motion to create some kind of legacy. After all, he left none from his days in the U.S. Senate nor did he from his stint in the Illinois legislature. And with Gitmo still open, renditions still taking place, warrantless wiretaps still occurring, communications intercepts still being utilized, troops still in Iraq, Afghanistan going badly and healthcare – er, health insurance – reform looking like the sequel to “The Titanic,” there is a rising level of desperation to “just do something!”

Most importantly, he was under pressure from the Chicago Machine to get over to Legoland and win one for the Grifter. Well, plural…grafters. The Machine – Richard Daley Jr., and a host of others helped launch Obama and it was payback time. Heck, it’s been said their pals invested in a lot of land down by the river, which would have likely been the site of the Olympic Village (“how convenient!”). Now what do they have to show for all their efforts, money and sacrifices?

Oh, well. At least Chicago’s got the Cubs.

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