The significance of a country’s president becoming involved in the Olympic bidding process cannot be underestimated. Just ask Tony Blair. It is believed that the then British Prime Minister’s presence in Singapore swung the balance in London’s favor.
President Obama is headed to Copenhagen, and it could spell good things for Chicago.
It is not often that a President’s home city is in the running, and it is not often that a President transcends politics in quite the same that Barack Obama does. The result will be a heavy mix that the decision makers of the IOC will find hard to ignore.
Looking at the candidate cities, each has claims. Rio will be buoyed by the successful hosting of the 2007 Pan-American games and will hope that the personal appearance of their president in Denmark will help their cause further. Whether Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva will make the same impact as Obama remains to be seen.
Tokyo benefits from a superb infrastructure, but may suffer due to the last games being held in Asia. Madrid is one of the few major European capitals to not have hosted the games; but having the Olympiad return to Europe after London in 2012 looks unlikely.
Therefore Chicago, boosted by the star-quality of Obama; the unofficial rota which suggests a continental American host in 2016; and a strong bid which puts the onus on a compact stage utilizing established venues, looks to be in a very strong position.
In times of economic recession, spending billions of public dollars to host the games is always open to criticism. London is yet to see whether budgets will continue to rise, or whether the games bring any lasting benefits. What cannot be denied is the “feel-good factor” which envelopes a city as the days before the opening ceremony pass by.
Chicago may benefit from pledging to fund the games from the private sector. This will ease the political pressure on administrators to overtly cut costs, and help justify spending.
There is no doubt that the Windy City’s legendary skyline, its lake-side locale and rich history will make Chicago an immensely strong candidate. Also the President’s personal touch is likely to prove too much for the other contenders to compete with.
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