Chicago is out of the 2016 Olympics but this defeat is not the city’s fault or a result of a deficient candidacy. This is a sign that the world is changing and this country’s leadership seems not to notice. As usual, the U.S. remains a bit out of touch with the rest of the world, perhaps because in any other international organization this country rules, demands, and others usually obey.
Here in the U.S. we thought that just because president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama traveled to Copenhagen along with the Mayor of Chicago, and just because they are from Chicago -or used to live there- then it was most likely that the rest of the world was going fall for their appeal and decide in favor. Not so much. Actually, the trip of the Obamas was a mistake, and Oprah with her media empire based in Chicago might have to do with it. Perhaps Barack Obama was trying to return the favor to Oprah, who promoted him as a presidential candidate.
I stayed awake late night to watch the Obamas speeches, and honestly they were a bit disappointing. The Obamas sounded repetitive, Michelle was dramatic and talked about her personal stories while president Obama talked about the interests of the United States in the games. He stood there as if he was the president of the world. The Obamas and the U.S. team had in their mind only one thing: profits for the city of Chicago, they even had Google CEO speaking by video stream, and sugarcovered with a ‘racial diversity’ message.
The U.S. team forgot that the Olympic games are not about business only -not totally- but also about celebrating the biggest cultural, educational, artistic and sports event in the world. In order to host it, you have to show neutrality as a good host. You have to show interest for the world interests and avoid for the fiasco of Atlanta 1996 to be repeated. The world can’t forget when Coca Cola stole the Olympics from Athens, in the 100 anniversary of the games.
The image of the U.S. in the world has been terribly damaged not only by the unjustified wars in Iraq and the abuses in Guantanamo, or the scandals reported around its over 1,000 military bases around the globe, but also by the corruption and damaging policies surrounding U.S. corporations and colonialist free trade policies. In the last few years the Olympics have been taken over by those corporations sponsorships, precisely.
The visit of the U.S. president to Denmark, might have seemed arrogant and pretentious to many in the world, because Obama tried to use his popularity and personal appeal going to the OIC himself to speak. That was a risky move that backfired. Is he aware that the rest of the world is still a racist place? The 2008 campaign has ended already Mr. President, and urgent issues affecting U.S. citizens daily need to be taken care of.
Worse, the video shown by the U.S. bid presented several Black and Brown kids as needy children who depend in sports to overcome poverty and a difficult reality. It seemed so cliche, fake and contradictory having the first U.S. Black president showing African American youth in that way. It was not right, charity or pity are not reasons to host the Olympics.
The defeat not only was painful but definitive: in the first-round the OIC delegates voted for: Madrid 28, Rio de Janeiro 26, Tokyo 22, and Chicago 18.
But this is not about the Obamas or the U.S. international image only, is also about a changing world.
The U.S. seems not to be aware the world is changing, and rising stars are now trying to make their presence in the world being recognized. That is what international sports is all about. This is not about western Europe and the U.S. anymore, now there is India, Brazil, China, Russia, South Africa, etc. This is the time to let other nations to host the Olympics.
In the times we live, Brazil is one of the new rising nations in the world, and they have been trying for years to host the Olympics. In 2007 they showed with the Pan American Games that they are taking sports seriously. In the recent 2008 Beijing Olympics, Brazil placed 17th. in the final medal tally, a best ever for South America.
It is estimated that by 2016, Brazil will be the 5th. biggest economy if the world and all South American countries see Brazil as a future political and economical center of the region. The Brazilians just won the bid for the 2014 Football World Cup and they just won the 2016 Olympics. Brazil’s influence is definitely growing and the overwhelming vote shows it: in the second-round the OIC voted: Rio de Janeiro 46, Madrid 29 and Tokyo 20, and at the final-round Rio de Janeirgo got 66 votes and Madrid 32. Over 67% of the vote!
The Olympics election is also an enormous success for president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the leftist union leader who never attended college, born in a working class family of northwestern Brazil and who is now the leader of an optimistic nation. Lula is an influential figure in the continent and a mayor stateman in the Brazilian bonanza, which is not perfect but is coming along.
Brazil still faces big challenges, including the huge gap between the few rich and the poor majority, or the deep racism in a country where 50% of the population are Black Afro descendants most of whom live in poverty. So now Brazilians have 7 years to transform Brazil for their own people first, and for the rest of the world to enjoy the most important event of the planet.
Just for the record, I love Chicago -especially the forgotten South side- and I love the best of the US, but is healthy and needed for the world, to see other peoples take charge from time to time.