Obama to Copenhagen in Olympic push

Posted on September 28, 2009



President Obama will fly to Copenhagen, Denmark to lend his support for the bid by Chicago for the 2016 Olympics, the first time a sitting American President has made such an appearance. The other potential favorite is Rio de Janeiro alongside other contenders Madrid and Tokyo, and Obama will try to use his international “star power” to woo the International Olympic Committee and put Chicago over the top.

I have to wonder if hosting the Olympics is worth the unprecedented effort by the administration. While hosting the Olympics is undoubtedly an honor, America has hosted the Games numerous times in the past; indeed, it was only 13 years ago when the Summer Games came to Atlanta, and only 7 since the Winter Games came to Salt Lake City. Since Olympic memories are so recent for this country, there’s no insatiable national thirst to host the Olympics.

Complicating matters is the support of the people of Chicago themselves. A poll by the Chicago Tribune on September 3rd revealed that support and opposition are nearly equal, at 47-45% respectively, and a whopping 84% don’t want to use any public money to finance the hosting of the Games. They have a right to be skeptical of potential costs, as four Olympic host cities are still in debt from the experience according to a Forbes article that also provides an excellent breakdown of the potential breakdown of costs.

So why the urgent push by the President? I imagine it has less to do with a national yearning or chimeric economic benefits and more to do with personal politics. Chicago is Obama’s hometown and landing the Games would be a substantial payback for the political machine through which the President rose. There are many public, private and union entities that would be giddy for the chance to get their fingers on all the money that will be flowing in to get the city ready for an Olympic event.

Would it be nice to host the Olympics again? Sure, but it wouldn’t be a big deal if America lost out to a country like Brazil. The frantic push by the President isn’t necessary and only smells like back-scratching for his cronies back in Chicago who would have much to gain from a successful bid. We’ll see how this ends up, but I’d be quite happy if Rio won the bid. Ed Morrissey makes a compelling case that it’s already a done deal, though, which would be quite a shame.

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Posted in: News, Politics