Sunday, October 4, 2009
And the Winner Is - Rio de Janerio
For the first time in history South America will be host to the Olympic Games as Rio de Janerio emerged victorious in Friday's vote in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Friday's vote was a major coup for the Brazilian city that has been world renowned for it's beauty and party atmosphere. The word "Carnival" is quickly associated by most with the city of Rio de Janerio. A place where a good time can be had by all who enter there.
But Rio has also earned a reputation for crime, drugs and violence. And the city, once the capital of Brazil, has been in decline since it lost that status in the 1960's. Like many large cities throughout the world (Rio has a population of approx 6 million people) there comes a time when a city could use a facelift, and hosting the Games should provide this for Rio.
This is one of the benefits of being host city to the Games - millions upon millions of dollars are poured into the city to improve infrastructure, beautify, and provide a fresh look. Cultural areas benefit as well as the city is revitalized for it's presentation to the world. The entire city gets "dolled up" for its visit from the world!
The city of Barcelona saw a huge renaissance in both culture and economy after hosting the Games in 1992. I imagine that Rio, once its been renovated and rejuvenated, will see a similar kind of renaissance. Which is one of the reasons that I feel the Games should travel the world - to spread the wealth of uplifting the world's major cities, and revive the cultures of the world!
Hopefully Rio winning this bid is a sign of the future and we will see other areas that have been ignored in the past get the opportunity to also play host to the Games. It would certainly fit the spirit of world peace and harmony in which the Games were created.
I believe that such may be the case, as this time around Rio was actually expected to be in the running heading into Friday's vote. What wasn't expected was their competition, as the final vote was between Rio and Madrid. Because, the "favorites" heading into the vote were Chicago and Rio de Janerio, but the first city dropped after the first round of voting was - Chicago!
Chicago out in first round of 2016 Vote
On Friday Americans were in a state of shock and Chicagoans were crying at the first round exit of Chicago in it's bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Breaking News Flashes all over television were talking about the snub of the US as host city. Chicago has taken it personally, because apparently not even the star power of none other than Oprah Winfrey, and Barak Obama could get them past the first round.
In retrospect, however (though I've felt this way since the USOC made it's announcement of Chicago as our bid city) if Chicago's "ace" was that of celebrity, then perhaps our position was never what we thought it to be!
Before I talk about Chicago as the bid city, let me state that whichever city was bidding for the United States would have faced a most difficult task. While the world seems to be excited that Obama is now our president, it is easy to forget that we have been at war in the Middle East for nearly the span of two Olympiads, and our prestige around the world has suffered greatly over the previous eight years!
We are seen by much of the world as the big bully on the block, and many relish any opportunity to see us knocked around a little. Such is the appeal, for example, of Jamaica suddenly giving us fits in the sprints! So awarding the United States a prize as golden as an Olympic bid was going to be a stretch for many of those voting. And it's much easier to snub the bully when the vote is by secret ballot - as this one was, and should be.
As such, we were not bidding from a position of "strength". We were not the beloved United States, protector of the world. We were the a nation despised by many - perceived as arrogant and overbearing. We realize that out economy still needs to be fixed, I think that we forget that our global reputation also is still in a state of disrepair!
That being said, it was imperative that the US put it's very best face forward with this bid - which we attempted to do when we sent Oprah, Michelle Obama, and the President to lobby on Chicago's behalf. I'm not sure, however, that we took that same care when we selected Chicago to serve as the face of the United States.
No disrespect to Chicago, but when one thinks about Major cities in the US it does not get the same billing as New York, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. These cities are the international face of the United States - our cultural and financial centers with global reputations in the eyes of the world. Looking to regain confidence and global acceptance, perhaps we should have invited the world to a place that IT would have been comfortable and appreciative of! A place that others would perceive as "First Class" and not second best.
We have many fine cities, Dallas, Denver, Miami, San Diego, and yes Chicago among others. But the Olympics play host to the world. And the world has certain expectations. They want the very best you have to offer - and I'm not sure we offered them that.
Granted Los Angeles may also have been a stretch - it's played host twice and would have been a bit redundant. But the world would love to come to New York or San Francisco. Both have tremendous allure to the world. They are rich in culture, and steeped in history, and have various connections to the world in general having been entry points for many immigrants that came here to make a new life.
Yes we would have some work to do to create Olympic Villages in either location. Logistics could be a bit tougher. Reworking infrastructure to create easy passage from venues that would not necessarily be centrally located would create a need for some innovation. But these are cities that are already cultural AND athletic centers on both the East and West Coasts, and whatever would be built there could be incorporated into the overall structure of both regions.
I've seen many areas thrown out there over the past few days, everything from Minnesota to Boston. But this is not 1909, where the Olympics could be housed by any large city with enough room to create venues and we, the Untied States, are the darling of the world. This is the New Millennium, where we have a reputation to recover, and the rest of the world has grown and has much to offer as host to the world's greatest sporting event!
We now have to think outside the box and figure out how to better package this nation for presentation to the rest of the world! That means presenting our icon cities - just as we attempted to present our icon celebrities.