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Sunday, September 27, 2020

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Rio's Olympic victory sends Chicago packing

The United States had a wake-up call last week when it was announced in Copenhagen that Rio De Janeiro beat out Chicago for the Summer 2016 Olympic bid.

Chicago did not just lose the bid to host the summer Olympics. The city was rejected during the first round last Friday after receiving only 18 votes from the International Olympic Committee. I guess President Obama and Oprah could not say enough to sway committee members in Chicago's favor.

Some criticize the IOC for ruling out Chicago before the competing cities - Madrid and Tokyo. Madrid made it to the final face-off against Rio. That, in effect, means Chicago lost out to Europe - a continent that will be hosting the 2012 Olympics in London and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Let's not also forget Barcelona hosted in 1992, so a Madrid Olympics would have meant two-in-20 for Spain.

The Japanese hosted the 1998 winter games in Nagano. On occasion, critics have scolded the nation for the lack of commitment the Japanese show for the event. If there is not widespread enthusiasm, why should the nation be in contention in the first place? Nevertheless, Chicago was knocked out before the Asian nation as well.

It is hard to get too heated about the United States losing this one. The country has had plenty of recent opportunities to be on the global stage. Atlanta was the location for the 1996 Olympics and Salt Lake City took on the winter games in 2002. Although as Americans we disaffiliate ourselves from our Canadian neighbors, this North American nation has hosted the Calgary games in 1988 and is getting ready to showcase the country again for Vancouver 2010.

There is time for the citizens of Chicago and the United States to grieve this harsh blow to civic and national pride. People do, however, need to have a short memory and get over it. Maybe it is time to give someone else a turn and stop taking things too personally.

As I watched the news coverage last Friday I could not help but notice all the dejected Chicagoans drudging through the streets filled with torn-up Chicago 2016 signs and posters. It is very disappointing to lose an event as big as the Olympics. There is no better honor or privilege a city could receive as far as spectator sports go. The history of the event is rich and it is sure to hoard in a diverse international crowd. It also attracts the most talented athletes from around the globe.

There are some not-so-glamorous aspects of the Olympics to consider as well. Namely, the huge expense that frequently gets overlooked. Preparing for a bid itself costs a city millions of dollars. The cost to taxpayers and the city only escalates from there. When you consider the infrastructure, marketing, transportation systems, security, etc., the cost of hosting the Olympics accumulates to the billions.

The city of London's budget is set to exceed $9 billion, according to a recent report by Fox News, and it still has a ways to go. Chicago would need to come up with a lot of capital during the next couple years and the city might be better off without the Olympics. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and no one likes to lose.

So, why not let the South American winners enjoy the glory for now? There has never been an Olympic event hosted on the continent. Brazil's economy is one of booming growth with a lot of potential. The city of Rio De Janeiro now has the chance to show Brazil's strength by spending the next six to seven years mapping out the Olympic event.

The Olympics may also be a way for Brazil to create a more positive image for itself. Currently, the South American nation can be remembered by most for kidnappings, drugs, corruption, violence and, of course, great beaches. Not the most positive image, but the $14.4 billion Olympic plan may be able to lift the country out of the gutter.

The Olympics will create about 120,000 new jobs each year until 2016, according to an ESPN report, and tourism should increase as well. Security will be improved. Better transportation will be put in place and other country-wide social problems will need to be addressed before the stage is set for 2016.

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There will be huge responsibility and international pressure placed on the South American city that will make it extremely difficult to ignore Brazil's shortcomings. The IOC has posed a tremendous challenge for Brazil and given the country a huge opportunity to prove itself to the rest of the world.

If 2016 ends up being a disaster many people may reference last Friday's decision and ream out the IOC for taking this kind of risk. On the other hand, the underdog could put on a spectacular display in its Olympic debut and stun all critics. As someone who tends to root for the underdog, I hope the latter will be Rio's end result.

Contact staff writer Jessie Murray at jessie.murray@richmond.edu

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