We Didn't Deserve The Olympics

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Oct 02, 2009 at 14:30

I am glad that Rio got the Olympics. Brazil is an emerging powerhouse, and South America has never received an Olympics before. Its about time.

Further, the simple fact is that no city in the United States deserved it. If the Olympics are really supposed to be about increasing international cooperation,  giving to the Unites States now would be a terrible decision. Here is why:

  • The United States hosted the Summer games in 1984 and 1996, as well as hosting the Winter Games in 1980 and 2002. If this is really about co-operation, one country should not be hosting one out of every four Olympic Games.

  • The last time the United States hosted the Olympics, the leaders of the host city's bid team were charged with bribery by the Justice Department, and ten members of the International Olympic Committee were expelled under related corruption implications. Not exactly the best image for an event that is supposed to be about international fair play.

  • It is more difficult for people from many countries to enter the United States than to enter other nations. Again, if this is really about international cooperation, that makes the United States a pretty poor choice.

  • The United States recently invaded another country under false pretenses and against the dictates of international law. No country doing that should be given the Olympics for a long, long time.

  • The Unites States failed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, unlike virtually every other country in the world. Why the one country unwilling to protect the planet from climate disaster should be allowed to host the premier event of international cultural co-operation is difficult to fathom.

  • Other examples of our lack of international co-operation include extraordinary rendition, the use of torture, not being a signatory to the land mine treaty, and the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. There is a very long list of our refusals to accept international standards for pretty much anything.
The fact is that we don't deserve to host such an important international event of cultural cooperation until we actually start cooperating with the rest of the world. In fact, I am pretty sure that is exactly why we didn't get the 2016 Games.

We may often not think that there are any forms of sanctions the rest of the world can levy on us for our actions, but the harsh reception to Chicago's bid--the first city to be eliminated once the political (that is, voting) stage of the finals began--shows that there are. Whether we like it or not, the rest of the world has not taken kindly to the list of actions I presented above. Not getting the Olympics is the first real comeuppance.

This defeat was exactly the outcome should be expected after our actions over the past decade. The 2008 election was not enough to just obviate everything have done--and continue to do--against the wishes of most of the rest of the world. Either we change, or international rejections of this sort will become more frequent.

Update: Oh yeah--as commenter Adam in Portland writes, there was also that bit about the United States crashing the worldwide financial system and sending the world into its deepest recession since World War Two. Bet that made us real popular, too.

Chris Bowers :: We Didn't Deserve The Olympics

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Obviously (4.00 / 2)
You're just another DFHer that hates 'merica!

Our Dime Understanding the U.S. Budget

Not to mention that the US claims the authority (4.00 / 1)
to bomb other countries, even allies like Pakistan, and summarily execute people anywhere anytime in the name of the "war on terror."

When I heard Obama was going, I assumed he knew that Chicago would get it. A political unforced error.

On the other hand (4.00 / 2)
It's not as if the IOC has ever taken deservedness into consideration.

[ Parent ]
At least no Madrid (4.00 / 1)
The U.S, has had 4 summer Olympics including two in the last 70 years.  Europe (counting 2012) has hosted 17 including two of the last three (2004 and 2012).  Most of the TV money is American (our power); the largest group of votes by far is European.

My personal choice order:
1. Rio
2. Tokyo
3. Chicago
4. Someplace that didn't bid ,like Johannesburg
5. Madrid

The biggest negative on Rio is whether they can afford it without screwing up more important things in Brazil.

I've been to an Olympics, LA in 1984.  My suggestion for both visitors and TV guests is to stagger the finals. There is no reason to make the finals a night time event.  Staggering would help traffic congestion and help international TV ratings.  It might also bring more attention to "minor sports."

Btw, no Olympic medal winner has ever been a US President but Senator Bill Bradley (gold, basketball) and US Representatives Ralph Metcalfe (gold, silver and bronze), Bob Matthias (gold) and Jim Ryun (silver) have served in Congress.

Avery Brundage and Ralph Metcalfe would have made great spokesmen for Chicago but I don't think either is living.  

[ Parent ]
He only decided to go (4.00 / 2)
when the leaders of the other three countries were going.

It was no way a political unforced error. Imagine if he was the only leader of a bidding country to not show up...and Chicago got cut in the first round...everyone would be bitching he didn't care enough about his country and his hometown to go and at least make a plea.

[ Parent ]
the Chicago Olympics are dead (4.00 / 3)
but long live Midwest High-Speed Rail!

Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

A much more worthy project! (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
A much more worthy project! (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
As a Chicagoan... (0.00 / 0)
I wanted the Olympics here, but you make some good points.

Either way, I guess the Olympics probably won't come here for many years now, if even in my lifetime.  Not the most important thing ever (I'd rather have the Cubs in the world series to be honest), but whatever. =)

More than that, though, it also annoys me how giddy this has the right-wing.  Oh well.

Some on the left are giddy too (0.00 / 0)
The one thing this did is it seperates those who are serious critics/supports of the President and those who just plain want him to fail.

It's one thing to think like Chris does, and celebrate the Olympics going somewhere else because you don't feel we're deserving of them, it's quite another to celebrate because it means the President could take a political hit...which he won't.  

[ Parent ]
Dave Zirin (4.00 / 4)
...Even without the Olympic Games, Chicago has been ground zero in the past decade for the destruction of public housing (gentrification), political corruption (it ain't just Blagojevich; I can't remember the last Illinois governor who didn't end up behind bars) and police violence (the death row torture scandals). Bringing the Olympics to this town would be like sending a gift basket filled with bottles of Jim Beam to the Betty Ford Clinic: overconsumption followed by disaster.


No Games Chicago organizer Alison McKenna said, "I oppose the Olympics coming to Chicago because instead of putting money toward what people really need, money will be funneled to real estate developers who will be tearing down Washington Park and other important community resources. I oppose the Olympics coming to Chicago because the nonprofit child-welfare agency that I work for had to sustain budget cuts and layoffs, while Chicago has spent $48.2 million on the 2016 Olympic bid, as of July 2009."


from the left (4.00 / 2)
One of the common complaints about the games from the left is this sentiment
"I oppose the Olympics coming to Chicago because instead of putting money toward what people really need, money will be funneled to real estate developers..."

The problem in my mind with this is that people are assuming that the money will be spent regardless and if it doesn't go to the Olympics it will go someplace else more deserving. I truly believe that isn't the case. Non-profit child-welfare was going to see cuts whether or not Chicago tried to get the Olympics and whether or not it succeeded.

The Olympics are a situation where they can be helpful to the city or not. If done well, the private capital for the Olympics could have been leveraged into lasting infrastructure, a new transit system, affordable housing (once the athlete's village cleared out) and public parks/buildings. If done poorly those could all have been temporary and been a big boondoggle. Complaints on the right suggested that the latter was the only possible outcome. (Apart from simply wanting to stick it to Obama.)

Liberals need to learn how to exploit opportunities like this to further our goals.  

[ Parent ]
yeah (4.00 / 1)
I dislike that mode of thinking too.  It assumes a zero-sum game.  I've never studied the issue of what actually happens, do more cities benefit from the infrastructure and tourism spending, or does the debt incurred become a pretext for social spending cuts down the road that cancel this out and leave the poor even worse off?

[ Parent ]
Depends (4.00 / 1)
some cities and countries have benefitted greatly from the Olympics, depending on who you ask.

Barcelona, for example, was a stunning success. It was a turning point in thie history of the city. Seoul benefitted greatly from the 1988 Olympics. The 1964 Olympics brought Japan back into the global community after World War II. London used the 1948 Olympics as an excuse to bring the county out of it's post World War II mess. Calgary grew rapidly after the 1988 Winter Olympics Torino benefitted from the 2006 Winter Olympics. Though still early to tell, Beijing may have been a rousing success. All these factors allowed these games to either financially break even or turn a profit.

But some events have been disasters. 1976 in Montreal is the most prominent case. The Sydney Olympics didn't do anything for the city or Austrailia in the years after.

There are cases where it's mixed. Atlanta, Lillehammer, Los Angeles, Lake Placid, Salt Lake City, Nagano, Athens.

It's really a coin toss...but there really isn't an example of the Olympics causing debt that led to social spending cuts. Montreal was close though.  

[ Parent ]
The for the people who live in any city, the Olympics are about gentrification (4.00 / 2)
I am sooooooo glad the Olympics will not be held in Chicago.  One of the venues was to be Washington Park where I played almost daily as a boy in the 1950s and 60s, and as a grown man, young and not so young for the rest of the century.

It would have been one of the final pieces of the urban landscape of my childhood to vanish without a trace.  I'm glad it will be there a few years more.

In Atlanta, where I live now, the Olympics was the excuse to demolish more than ten thousand units of low income housing, to put public subsidies in the form of tax abatements into the hand of developers to build where they wanted to build anyway.  Dave Zirin has it exactly right.  The Olympics are a disaster for whatever city they land in.  I am happy for Chicago, and sad for Rio, which is about to be raped and handed a bill for services rendered.  

"If you want that good feeling that comes from doing things for other people, then you have to pay for it in abuse and misunderstanding..."
Zora Neale Hurston

We didn't deserve Obama, either (4.00 / 1)
Gee... just because US investment bankers crashed the world economy (4.00 / 4)
Wow, ya think they're still ticked about that whole credit default swap crashing the international financial system thing?

A matter of scale? (0.00 / 0)
I completely agree with every item on your list. Those are the actions of an empire defending its position of dominance.

The underlying rationale, that the use of state power to violently and unjustly impose their will upon unwilling people, should also be applied to the other contenders, no?

A quick check of Amnesty International site suggests that Brazil has a spotty human rights record as well. But, the Olympics have to held somewhere, so why moan over spilled blood, eh?

Personally, I don't pay attention to the olympics, so for me the location is pretty much irrelevant.  Given my druthers and penchant for political drama, I was looking forward to Chicago winning the bid and watching nations around the world lodge protests by refusing to participate for the reasons listed in the original diary. So, I'm disappointed.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

I was in favor of Rio over Chicago (4.00 / 5)
but I found one argument funny.

That Chicago shouldn't host because it has crime and poverty problems and there was a gang murder there recently.

So since the host city can't have that soil the reputation of the Olympics, the obvious choice was...Rio de Janiero?!?!?  

[ Parent ]
You know who else is happy the Olympics are going to Rio instead? (4.00 / 1)
Damn near every Olympic athlete, I'd imagine.

Do they know they're going to the Rio Winter Olympics yet? (0.00 / 0)
They may may not be quite as happy about that. Not that Rio's winter weather is very bad, but...

[ Parent ]
You're right on all points.... (0.00 / 0)
...but, what pisses me off is that someone should have known this was going to happen.  I think Obama did.  He didn't want to go.  But, they begged him... it was going to be so close...

It was never going to be close... The fix was in and they got us good.  It's just disappointing that incompetent people on our side and malicious people on the other dragged our reluctant president into this and made him look bad.

Once again, Obama's "friends" are hardly friends at all....

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

He would've looked bad regardless (4.00 / 3)
he looks "less bad" by doing this.

If the tables were turned, we'd be sitting here asking "Why didn't anyone tell the President to go to Copenhagen and make a plea for the Olympics. The other leaders did."

Actually, I think he looks rather good...the media knows that, which is why they're spinning it as bad.

[ Parent ]
Yup, it wasn't even close. But what if he wouldn't have gone? (0.00 / 0)
Then the lying rethuglicans would have harassed him for not doing enough! Damned if you do, damend if you don't.

[ Parent ]
All good reasons (0.00 / 0)
But I doubt any of them figured in the actual calculations.

This is the IOC we're talking about. The same body that's been run for the past three decades by Samaranch, whose previous job was Franco's Sports Minister and who has never repudiated his Falangist past. Hell, given the way he ran it, you could argue his Falangism isn't really past in any case.

This was politics, plain and simple. Chicago probably got eliminated on the first round because plenty of delegates voted for Madrid because Samaranch Jr ran their bid and they wanted to keep the evil old buzzard happy by not letting him come last.

If deservedness had anything to do with it, we wouldn't be less than three years away from the London Olympics.

Forgotten Countries - a foreign policy-focused blog

Speaking of bonehead moves, (4.00 / 1)
the public is reacting with revulsion to the conservatives cheering Chicago's and the US's loss.  So Chris decides to go them one better.

Right, Chris! The FIRST olympics for South America. About time. (0.00 / 0)
And the global media says the president and the first lady made very compelling appearances. But even if Obama was the most popular guy on earth, it wouldn't have been good enough. The arguments for giving yet another olympics to the US weren't there. Plus, it was to soon after the Bush administration to simply forget about all the atrocities, Yankees still aren't that popular again in the rest of the world. And also, this was a cat fight behind the scenes between longtime IOC insiders, which 93 year old Brazilean IOC official João Havelange won over Spanish honorary IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch (89). The US had no chance, really, but it was good that Obama at least tried.

Btw, your story made it into the opinionator blog at NYT, Chris:

someone else said it better than i could: (0.00 / 0)
'the olympics, aka the international traveling brothel of corruption and debt.' in this country, any circus like this is guaranteed to be a tremendous boondoggle to large corporate welfare queens. that $50M chicago just blew may not have ultimately gone to social services, but it will come back and bite the admin on the ass later, when the city finds itself truly broke. i'm glad they aren't destroying washington park too; i used it a lot when i lived in the city.

i learned all i needed to know about the IOC and selection process when the frakking mormon fundies in UT temporarily changed the blue laws to better serve IOC members. what lushes they must be. and color me bored by the notion that the olympics are a meaningful event for world peace or whatever. that's as ridiculous as saying 'america is defined by football.' i lament the fact that commercialization and corporatism have essentially killed 'amateur' sport, but whatever. it's sports. any time you mix politics, sports, a lot of money and the media, you're guaranteed to get a heady mix of corruption, whoring and boozing, misappropriation of public funds, and cheating.  


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