It was a compact bid that kept 90 percent of the
athletes within 15 minutes of their venues, and
used existing or temporary venues that wouldn't
burden the city with white elephants. It was a
dazzling setting on picturesque Lake Michigan, a
major city that doesn't have major attitude.
Best of all, it had government support all the
way up to the White House. So much so that
President Barack Obama found time in his busy
schedule to come to Copenhagen to lobby in
person for the 2016 Olympics -- flying overnight,
"This was," acting U.S. Olympic Committee CEO
Stephanie Streeter said, "the strongest bid
we've had. Ever."
And yet Chicago was gone after the first
round Friday, a worse showing than New York's
bid for the 2012 Games four years ago. Even
Tokyo, whose bid barely generated any mention in
the days before the vote, beat the Americans.
"Stunned" and "shocked" were the words heard
most often, from IOC members and the Chicago
"Either it was tactical voting, or a lot of
people decided not to vote for Chicago whatever
happened," IOC executive board member Gerhard
Heiberg said. "Nobody knows, but everybody is in
a state of shock. Nobody believes it. I'm very
sorry about it. We will have to spend some time
evaluating what happened."
As will the Americans.
Sure, a large part of their defeat was the
appeal of eventual winner Rio de Janeiro. The
Olympics have never been in South America, and
the Brazilians were incredibly passionate and
enthusiastic in their appeals for the games.
But there was also an undeniable backlash
against any number of things American, from
hassling visitors at the borders to money
squabbles -- even that quickie visit by the
"They realize that apparently they have a
problem," Denis Oswald, a member of the
International Olympic Committee's executive
board, said. "We want them to be fully part of
the family and they probably have to take some
Some people, though, just don't like the way
Americans do things.
One IOC member, Syed Shahid Ali of Pakistan,
told Obama that foreigners "can go through a
rather harrowing experience" getting into the
United States and asked how he intended to deal
with that when thousands of people come for the
Obama replied that "America, at its best, is
open to the world," and the presentation ended
with no further questions.
"This is an easy way for countries to express
resentment toward us, as a superpower, without
suffering any consequences, like having their
foreign aid cut off or their weapons programs
cut off," said Doug Logan, CEO of USA Track and
Field. "It's an easy way for them to express a
great amount of displeasure."
There are other geopolitical factors at play,
too. Rio repeatedly referred to the "imbalance"
of the games being held -- often -- in North
America, Europe and Asia, yet never in South
America, and it was tough for IOC members to
ignore. There also might have been some members
who tossed their votes to Tokyo in the first
round, assuming Chicago would get through and
not wanting the Japanese to be horribly
"The whole thing doesn't make sense other
than there has been a stupid bloc vote," senior
Australian member Kevan Gosper said. "To have
the president of the United States and his wife
personally appear, then this should happen in
the first round, is awful and totally
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Even Obama's presence may have hurt with a few IOC members. While
many rushed to meet the president and the first lady after they left
the session hall, not everyone was so enthralled. He was in town
only five hours, then hurried back to Washington.
"It can be that some IOC members see it as a lack of respect,"
said Kai Holm, a former IOC member from Denmark.
But the Americans -- the USOC, at least -- also have to shoulder
some of the blame.
A testy relationship between the IOC and USOC is almost
ingrained. The IOC needs the United States -- its companies and
broadcasters provide the largest share of their revenues -- and
resents that it does. That the USOC spent many years acting as if it
was above the rest of the group only worsened things.
When the vote-buying scandal in Salt Lake City's winning campaign
for the 2002 Winter Games broke, IOC members took the brunt of the
criticism -- then-president Juan Antonio Samaranch was even called
before Congress -- and the USOC underwent a period of upheaval that
was felt domestically and internationally.
The USOC has done a lot of work, particularly in the last four
years, to re-engage internationally, letting the IOC know it wants
to be interested partners, not overseers. But some bad feelings
linger, magnifying any missteps. Other Olympic committees have
explored the possibility of starting their own TV networks, yet it
threatened to derail the Chicago bid when the USOC announced plans
this year. Not to mention squandering any good will the USOC had
built up when chairman Larry Probst and Streeter managed to work out
a compromise on the long-simmering revenue sharing dispute earlier.
And after years of relatively stable leadership, the USOC had a
messy transition when Jim Scherr, a former Olympic wrestler who was
well-liked in the movement, was dumped in March and replaced by
"I think the revenue-sharing issue not being completely resolved
was a factor," Scherr said. "Also, the desire for the IOC to go to
South America and the fact that Rio has been in the process for four
more years than Chicago was. They had a leg up from Day One."
And now they have the games. And the Americans are looking for
"It's a strong bid," said Bob Ctvrtlik, a former IOC member who
is now the USOC's vice chair of international relations. "If you
went around and asked the IOC members, I think they'd say it's a
strong bid, too."
If only that was all that mattered in the game of Olympic
AP Sports Writers Steve Wilson in London and Eddie Pells in
Colorado Springs, Colo., contributed to this report.
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