Friday, October 02, 2009

Embarrassment For Obama As Rio Beats Chicago

Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Olympic Games. It beat Madrid, Tokyo and the favourites, Chicago, in the vote among International Olympic Committee members in Copenhagen. It's the first time a city from South America has been chosen to hold the Games. To disbelief in the Windy City, Chicago was earlier knocked out in the first round of voting, despite the personal support of President Obama who had travelled to Denmark to make a personal pitch on behalf of a city he has a close association with.

Although it's a bit of a shock that Chicago lost so badly, the IOC has a long history of surprising decisions. One possible reason for Chicago's defeat could be tactical voting, a fate that befell the much-fancied Toronto bid for the 1996 Olympics. Many of the city's supporters within the IOC apparently lent their votes to Atlanta in an attempt to knock Athens out of the running, a tactic that backfired badly when it was Toronto that exited the contest.

However, a more likely explanation for Rio's victory and Chicago's defeat is the differing involvements of the presidents of Brazil and the US. President Obama's late decision to spend some of his political capital in backing Chicago in person has gained most of the media's attention in the build-up to today's vote. But President Lula of Brazil has been lobbying on behalf of Rio, around the world, for the last two years. The members of the IOC have presumably been impressed by his support for Rio over such a long time. No matter how popular Mr Obama may be, he's been able to devote much less time to helping Chicago since taking office. That might well have proved the deciding factor.

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