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Behind the Bid: Chicago Abroad

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jul 11, 2007 2:30PM

Mayor Daley and the rest of his Getalong Gang took their Olympic show on the road yesterday, heading to Rio de Janeiro to the Pan American Games, sort of a regional Olympics. Daley and company are hoping to learn a few lessons from an actual large-scale event, rather than just what they might envision on their drawing board.

2007_7_daley_dome.jpgIt won't be a carnival for the boys behind the bid, however, after the USOC issued a formal apology after a photo ran on the front page of Rio's O Globo newspaper of a whiteboard at the USOC's press center for the Pan American Games where someone scrawled "Welcome to the Congo!" O Globo called the "joke" by the USOC staffers "full of prejudice," and the incident has sparked outrage among many Brazilians, who regard the incident as indicative of the arrogant and ignorant attitude they believe many Americans hold toward their nation. Hardly the atmosphere that the US candidate for the 2016 Olympic bid wants to be in when touring another nation.

All of this points to a larger issue that Chicago will have to contend with should our city win the bid and actually host the 2016 Olympics; this will be the first, large-scale international event held in post-9/11 America. Not only will Chicago have to contend with an intense flurry of infrastructure upgrades and a crush of people from around the world, but the security ramifications are also staggering. Although nearly a decade away, with the US bogged down in the Middle East with a seemingly unwinnable "War on Terror," and global perception of our nation pretty much circling the drain, it's almost like dangling raw steak in front of an angry and starving dog. Although ostensibly held to promote world peace, the Olympics have been a forum for global political statements in the past, with some of the most memorable being disturbingly violent. After the powers that be in our city take their opportunity to drastically reshape the appearance of the city of neighborhoods (which you can pretty much kiss goodbye after 2016 if we host the Olympics), Chicago will have to cope not only with how the federal government will handle the influx of people from around the world (and after the passport fiasco, our confidence in the government's ability to manage even that is pretty low), but how we will manage security in such an environment.

As Daley leads his entourage around Rio, studying how another metropolis manages its games, we're left wondering when he will make a visit to study how other cities manage their cities. Perhaps some lessons on quality public education, efficient mass transit, and honest and transparent government could be learned as well.