Tuesday, September 29, 2009

O-lympic O-bama

Republicans are admonishing Obama for flying to Copenhagen in an effort bring the Olympic Games to Chicago. Nevermind that the decision to focus the US bid on Chicago was made in March 2007, well before Obama was president, or that there are few better motors for economic development and international respect than the Olympics, the Republicans are going to complain. Nevermind that the new Prime Minister of Japan will be representing Tokyo's bid as well, Republicans will complain. Of course, Republicans may be complaining because Obama is setting up to claim a diplomatic coup that he had little to do with.

As the first link notes, Mitt Romney confirms the importance of sending the head of state to lobby the IOC for the Olympics. There may be no vainer group of men and women than the International Olympic Committee, and being feted by our popular president may make the difference. All along, I've said that the 2016 Games are Chicago's to lose -- really, the 2016 Games are the United States' to lose.

This only counts for a few votes. Most votes are based on "taking your turn" -- as in 2004-Australia, 2008-Asia, 2012-London...2016-the Americas. There's all sorts of noise, but it's easy to see how it plays out. If London has 2012 (thanks to Tony Blair's personal lobbying), Madrid won't get 2016 no matter how good their bid is. Tokyo doesn't have enough Asians on the IOC to count on a natural support bloc, and the Japanese capital isn't getting the Olympics a year after Beijing had them. Rio de Jainero had sentiment on its side, and pushing to be the first South American games made them a threat. However, Rio can't escape their technically inferior bid, and recent revelations of dirty tricks have torpedoed their chances. And then there's the money. The route to a fat IOC budget is through Chicago 2016, and the IOC knows this.

Obama's team may be a lot of things, but they're not stupid. They know that Chicago has this in hand, and that linking Obama to winning the Olympic Games is only smart politics. When Chicago is named the host of the 2016 Olympic Games, Obama wants to be there. And there's nothing the Republicans can do about it.

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