Rio de Janeiro? After years of speculation, a rigorous four-year $50 million pitch by Chicago’s bid team, and impassioned pleas by Oprah and, you know, the Obamas, Chicago was the first city eliminated as a possible host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics by the International Olympic Committee this morning, followed by Tokyo and finally Madrid.
Chicago, considered a front-runner along with Rio (Chicago was last year’s American Fast City of the Year), lobbied hard before the International Olympic Committee this morning, with Chicago figurehead Oprah Winfrey and both Barack and Michelle Obama in attendance. But as soon as the decision to eliminate the Second City was handed down, pundits began the finger-pointing. Many thought the decision to remove Chicago may have hinged on the bid’s lack of federal funds, a peculiar detail considering Obama, father of a massive multi-billion stimulus package earlier this year, was there stumping for the city. Others called Chicago’s presentation simply flat next to the colorful pitches by Rio and Madrid.
For Rio, hosting the Olympics is especially significant because the South American continent has never hosted the Summer Games. The city is also riding a wave of enthusiasm after hosting the Pan American Games in 2007, which went off largely without a hitch, proving its stature as an international city.
But Rio has big shoes to fill. Beijing re-imagined the Summer Games last year, pushing architecture and theatrics to new highs. The 2012 London games look unlikely to compare. We know Rio has the passion and the personality. Whether not it will have the imagination—and the economic might to support its ideas—remains to be seen.