Chicago denied again: for the fourth time
The first Olympic Games in the Western Hemisphere occurred in St. Louis, Mo., simultaneously with the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, more commonly known as the World’s Fair of 1904, which happened on the grounds of Washington University and throughout Forest Park. Chicago was unanimously chosen in 1901 for the 1904 Olympics, but St. Louis officials feared that having it there would cut into attendance for the World’s Fair. Thus, St. Louis threatened to hold their own athletic competitions if the Olympics were not moved here, and the International Olympic Committee decided to allow President Theodore Roosevelt to arbitrate the dispute. He chose St. Louis, and the IOC went along with his decision. The Francis Field, located on the Danforth Campus of Wash. U., was the primary stadium for the 1904 Olympic Games!
Chicago thus bitterly accepted and bid again in 1952 and 1956, without success. This is why having the American president, whose adopted hometown is Chicago, fail in his bid was particularly disappointing. On Oct. 2, 2009, the IOC decided to host the coveted 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro after much competition from Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo. To the surprise of many, the United States was eliminated in the first round, even after the president and first lady personally went to Copenhagen to lobby for their hometown, Chicago.
Chicago’s early exit from balloting represented a personal setback for Obama and a painful one for Chicago, America’s most prominent Midwestern city. Obama put his prestige and political capital on the line to fly to Copenhagen personally to lobby for the 2016 Olympics to be held in his adopted city, Chicago. As he said in his final remarks to the IOC, “I urge you to choose Chicago—and if you do—if we walk this path together—then I promise you this: The city of Chicago and the United States of America will make the world proud.”
Finally, I view the Olympics as transcending any one political party or ideological division. The prestige of holding the Olympics honors the entire country, and Obama’s failure to do so is a failure for all of us. It is true that the president had more pressing matters to deal with, such as health care, and did not need to spend a lot of money for a simple five-hour trip to Copenhagen. In the end, regardless of whether or not you believe Obama should have flown to Denmark, the fact is that I was hoping the United States would win. As president, he theoretically represents the entire American people and our collective aspirations, hopes and dreams.
Many Obama critics were joyful and blamed Obama for Chicago not receiving the games. Rush Limbaugh said, “Our president, Barack Hussein Obama, has been running around the world for nine months telling everybody how much our country sucks…Why would anybody award the Olympics to such a crappy place?”
That kind of rhetoric is not helpful and it belies the belief of most Americans, including many conservatives and Republicans, that the Olympics are a glory for all of us. I hope very much that Chicago and St. Louis, again, will host the Olympics, a signal of respect from the rest of the world. In the end, it is time to strip the politicizing of the Olympics that has happened to our great detriment, and to see it for what it is: a realization that all of humanity is one and that collectively, when we have the will to solve problems, we will find the way to the solutions!
Isaac is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]