Handicapping Chicago's Olympic Bid

The President sends his better half to make the case for the Windy City, but not everyone agrees it should get the games

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On October 2nd, the International Olympic Committee will convene in Copenhagen to announce its selection for the host city of the 2016 Summer Games. The only American bid among the four finalists is Chicago, which faces strong competition from the Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo. On Wednesday, President Obama announced that First Lady Michelle would travel to Copenhagen without him to make the closing argument in behalf of their former hometown. But without a presidential appearance some commentators aren't sure Chicago has a chance, and some would prefer it that way. The Atlantic Wire breaks down the opinions:

  • Lose-Lose The Huffington Post's Esther J. Cepeda ponders Obama's decision by looking at three potential outcomes were he to go to Copenhagen, none of which bodes well for the president's political capital: "The only way he looks good is if Chicago gets it without him there, which is not likely according to at least one guy who oughta know..." She also goes into detail about the bid documentation and cites the opinions of some notable city workers who think Chicago still has a chance, even without the president. Still, the consensus is that "the president not showing up would certainly not bode well for the bid and his presence could make the big difference."
  • Two Birds in One Trip  ESPN writer Tom Farrey says that Obama shouldn't use the health-care reform debate as the excuse to keep him from going to Copenhagen. In fact, he believes that "a Chicago Olympics could do as much to reform health care in this country as anything he's arguing over with Republicans at the moment." His argument: There are few preventative health measures better than athletic activity, and the Olympics would provide an unprecedented opportunity to rally support for local and nationwide sports clubs.
  • Split Decision  At the Chicago Sun-Times, Lewis Lazare rounds up three local TV reporters' assessments on their city's chances. Ben Bradley says it could go either way: "If IOC members vote with their hearts, they'll pick Rio. If they vote with their heads, it'll be Chicago." Phil Rodgers favors Brazil's bid, and Jay Levine says it all comes down to whether or not the president will, in fact, make a surprise appearance before the IOC.
  • Shunning Chi-Town  "It’s hard to imagine a more undeserving U.S. city to host the Olympics than Chicago. Forgive me Cubs fans and Windy City residents, but your house is not in order," writes Mindy Belz in World Mag. She bases her scathing assessment on recent revelations of corruption in the Illinois state government and Chicago Mayor Daley's decision to lay off some 400 plus city workers. Offering an even harsher line of criticism against the city and its leaders is Steve Bartin: "In Chicago, prestige is important, but graft is the real king. In Chicago, one of the most corrupt big cities, the Olympics represents, more than anything, a grand chance for a giant heist."
  • Opportunity Knocks  Also at the Sun Times, columnist Mark Brown tries to persuade skeptics why the Games would be so good for Chicago. Downplaying criticisms of "financial risk for taxpayers" and the "creation of another honeypot" he cites the potential for job creation and a future of renewed international tourism once the city has been exposed to the world stage. "I still believe there's great value in bringing the world together peacefully in athletic competition and friendship. And we could have a heckuva good time."
  • Assuming It's Picked... Economics professor Edward Snyder evaluates how previous Olympic spending impacted host cities in the aftermath of the games, both for the better and the worse. "Whether Chicago can realize the long-term potential of the Olympics depends upon the continued engagement of a broad group of citizens and business and government leaders," he concludes.
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