Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Chicago 2016

Chicago's bid for the 2016 summer Olympics is back in the news -- an IOC team will be visiting town starting Thursday.

The earlier talk had been that Chicago was quite an underdog, but that seems to be changing. Reuters says now that really anything is possible. The other finalists are Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo; the IOC vote is on October 2nd of this year.

The Olympics are, more often than not, bad for cities; Chicago would be particularly bad. People in Chicago and the area have real needs that aren't being met, be it on transit or public health or public safety. Little of what will be done for 2016 will help most of them; in many cases it will get in their way. Much of the funding would be private, but the point remains.

Then there's Chicago city government. They wouldn't be running the show, of course, but they'd have a significant role. I don't want to sound like a conservative, but, they just can't get things done.

Obama has been a strident Chicago 2016 supporter. Reuters points out that high-level lobbying often makes a difference in swinging IOC votes, and suggests that Obama's personal involvement could be make or break.

Assuming the economy is still pretty rotten by late summer or early fall, does Obama really want to be out there saying we should start spending money on these stadiums and such right now? Hopefully, the politics will push Obama a bit away from a full embrace of Chicago 2016.

Lastly, there's the issue of international leverage. The Beijing 2008 games set the precedent fairly clearly -- you have some leverage to pressure a powerful country before the site decision is announced (say, on human rights), but after the city wins the games, there's not all that much that you can do (especially when we're talking the United States).

So that leaves 6 months where the United States, through it's Chicago 2016 bid, could actually be somewhat susceptible to international pressure. What should the benchmarks be? I don't know. That would take some discussion, and outside of Chicago, it's unfortunately not happening.

I'll go with this thought for now: no IOC member should vote for Chicago if prosecutions of Bush administration officials for authorizing torture have not yet commenced by October 2nd.


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