Raising my Caipirinha
Rio’s win in the Olympic sweepstakes is obviously the big headline of the day. My take? As a native Chicagoan, I’m disappointed, mostly because I know my birthplace of 3 million residents is one of the world’s great and perennially underrated cities. Rarely does anyone who visits come away unimpressed. It has tons going for it: world-class architecture, a stunning lakefront, excellent transportation infrastructure, sports-mad locals, a great music/comedy/entertainment scene, etc. Plus, it has that annual collective glee that bursts out in its many music and cultural festivals that only cities caked in ice for several months can showcase when the temperature rises. Summer in Chi-Town is full of fun, celebration and solidarity.
Did I think Chicago was going to win? I did. I’ll cop to bias when it comes to the Windy City. And I’ve long subscribed to the continental rotational theory, which based on recent and future Summer Games (’00 Sydney, ’04 Athens, ’08 Beijing, ’12 London) means that ’16 should have been in America. I suppose since it’s South America, that counts. Based on some articles I’ve read, it sounds like the U.S.O.C. bungled the bid. It apparently also has lost some of its influence.
“The United States, within the Olympic movement, hasn’t engaged as well as we could have for a long time,” Robert Ctvrtlik, the U.S.O.C. vice president for international relations, told the NY Times. “There’s a lot of politics going on. This isn’t just on the merits. I don’t think it’s anti-American. Maybe we still don’t have the horsepower to do some of the politicking within the movement.”
While the last minute lobbying of the Obama’s will be parsed in the days ahead – did it help or hurt? – certainly no one expected that kind of firepower to fall so flat. Voted out in the first round? Forget Second City. How about Fourth? Even some IOC members were stunned. “I’m shocked,” Australian IOC member Kevin Gosper told The Associated Press. “The whole thing doesn’t make sense other than there has been a stupid bloc vote. To have the president of the United States and his wife personally appear, then this should happen in the first round is awful and totally undeserving.”
No doubt Rio will put on a mind-bending party. South America also deserves its first chance to stage the Games. Hopefully it won’t bankrupt Rio or drag down the Brazilian economy. The Summer Games are an expensive prospect to carry. They certainly have the panache to put on a spectacular experience. My one caveat (at the expense of sounding bitter): My experience in Brazil and with Brazilians (both as tourist and journalist) is that organization is not their strong suit. But that never stopped me from downing a few caipirinhas.