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Maybe we're not so great afterall...

June 15, 2009

(Geneva, Switzerland)  Every time I’m fortunate enough to travel overseas I’m reminded of the American-centric (i.e. egocentric, superior) attitude with which we view the world.  It’s time to take off the blinders and admit we have a lot to learn. 

As I type, I’m rocketing across the Swiss countryside on a high-speed train that connects cities near and far.  No need to rent a car here, clean and comfortable trains shuttle passengers far faster than they could drive. In Chicago, we feel fortunate when the Blue Line can travel more than 30mph.  All of our 2016 competitors except Rio have far superior mass transit systems to Chicago.

As Americans we enjoy the ability to travel just about anywhere in the world without difficulty.  However, the same can’t be said for many people wishing to visit the United States.   Depending on their nationality, post 9/11 obtaining a visa to enter America is viewed by many foreigners as a brutally bureaucratic process that can end in inexplicable denials by the U.S. government.  It’s a concern raised by some IOC members evaluating Chicago’s bid.

The worldwide recession can play for or against Chicago in the Olympic race.  Economists will tell you that a recovery will likely be felt first in the United States, which Chicago’s team suggests will help when it comes time to sell sponsorships for 2016.  However, there’s also a good bit of international anger directed toward the US with many believing the current global financial mess is a direct result of American mis-steps. 

Any Chicagoan will tell you we are a sports town.  Bulls, Bears, Cubs, Sox, Hawks and Fire.  We’ve got it all, right?  Not exactly.  Unlike Madrid, Rio and Tokyo we’ve never hosted Olympic caliber competition.

Former US Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth had it right a few years back.  Ueberroth threw cold water on Chicago's bid with a verbal slap across the face.  He essentially said, at the time, he thought we were near the bottom of the list of cities bidding to host the 2016 Games.  An analysis by aroungtherings.com earlier this month had Chicago in first place.  The reality is no one knows how IOC members will vote this fall.  Their motivation is as diverse as the countries they represent.

We love our city warts, parking meters and all.  But to truly understand our odds of winning the Games, we have to take the blinders off.

I’d write more, but what do you know?  My train is arriving in Lausanne.  I love good public transportation.



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Ben, Chicago did host the Pan-American Games in 1959 -- as close to Olympics as possible. Same teams as in '60 games, except from North, Central and South America.

We also hosted World Cup in 1994.

It is bad enough that the President of the United States runs around the world apologizing for the United States. Must you, too?

Try getting a knee replacement surgery in Switzerland. Try disputing a property tax bill in Switzerland. Go to a "supermarket" and check out the cost of living that makes all but the super-wealthiest citizens "working class". Try filing a class action law suit in Switzerland. Try buying a tank of gas.

And let us hope and pray that the U.S. continues to protect our borders and restrict travel onto our soil, when individual cases warrant a second look.

Stop apologizing. The U.S. is the greatest force for good in the history of mankind.

Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. Ed M: You are correct about hosting the World Cup and the Pan Am Games decades ago... what I should have said was that Chicago has not - in modern times -- hosted a multi-sport, multi-day series of Olympic caliber competition. Given television rights, sponsorship, logistics, international travel... today's Olympics (and even Pan Am Games) are far different than they were in the 1950s.

Conservative Soldier: Don't ever think I would trade being an American for a fast train ride! Thanks for your service.

Mr. Bradley: In the interest of full disclosure, I wish to clarify that I did not serve in the U.S. armed forces in my youth (although I will always regret not doing so). My screen name and the name of my social commentary blog reflects my pledge to promote and defend American values and the Constitution, and to oppose the tide of Socialism. And as for transport, believe me, I have done the train from Geneva to Lausanne en route to the IOC HQ, and I know how wonderful it is. I bet if we privatized Amtrak, removed any federal role, America's rail service would become the envy of the world within a decade.

any olympics should be privite funded.what the other 3 are doing is using taxpayer money to fund their games.the cost of rio's games are around $14.4 billion.now how can rio and their country pay that kind of money for a country that is 50-60% poverty?toyko, japan may have money but its citizens don't want the games which only has 55% support because the japannese people don't want to pay taxes on the games.madrid has 15% unemployment but i cannot see an olympics staying in europe after london 2012 and sochi 2014 before that torino 2006 and athens 2004.this time the americas will be looked at seriously and that could favor chicago if the private funding proof is shown to the ioc.

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