September 30, 2009
Why I hope Obama brings the 2016 Olympics to ChicagoBy Richard Baehr
I do not think readers of American Thinker have any doubts about my concerns about many things concerning Barack Obama. But as to the President's trip to Copenhagen to try to win the Olympic games for Chicago and the United States in 2016, I part company with the critics, from the left and right, or from the NIMBY (not in my backyard) contingent.
Let's get real here: if a President can go on vacation for a few weeks, he can spare a day for this trip. To some extent Obama boxed himself in with an earlier statement saying he would not go to Copenhagen due to the need to push health care reform.
I thought that sounded pretty lame -- one more day and one more health care speech would not be decisive, but one day in Copenhagen very well might. One reader suggested Obama would go only if Chicago had a good chance to win, but not if he thought we would lose -- go for the glory of a win, but not to come home empty handed. I agree in part with this, but I also thought Obama's presence might well prove decisive.
Compared to the leaders of Brazil, Japan, and Spain, Obama is in an entirely different star category. His approval ratings are deservedly sagging at home, but he is still the biggest guy on the world stage. I wrote earlier that if Obama went to Copenhagen and looked IOC voters in the eye and asked them for their votes, that he would get enough. And this is something leaders of countries do -- they go to the final meeting to help win the Olympics for their country. It would have looked very bad if only the US of the four finalists, did not care enough to send its leader to the final presentation he day of the vote.
Of course if Chicago wins on Friday, there will be wasteful spending directed at Daley cronies in all kinds of ways. The Mayor cannot help himself. His view of politics, like his father's, is that if you cannot help friends and families, why run for office? And of course Barack Obama is part and parcel of, and a product of, the Daley machine. Daley crony David Axelrod was given to the Obama campaign for Senate in 2004, to make sure Obama never got the bright idea to run for Mayor against Daley. After all, Daleys serve in Chicago until they die.
All that said, I am rooting for Chicago to win, and that is why I wanted Obama in Copenhagen to make the pitch. The Olympics are special for a city and the country that hosts them. Ask the folks in China if winning the 2008 games mattered to them.
Chicago is underrated (I grew up in New York, which I now think is overrated, but of course was underrated when I lived there). Americans from other parts of the country love to visit Chicago, a lot of them coming here for conventions. But most foreign visitors to the US go to New York or DC, or the West Coast or the national parks, and skip Chicago.
Their mistake. Atlanta doubled in size after winning the 1996 games. The games provided a huge boost to business, international air service, housing, and tourism. There have been more jobs created in the Atlanta area than in any other US metro area in the last decade and a half. Sure, the games last only 17 days, but a city is an Olympic city in world eyes aftre the games are over.
And on a selfish note, I would love to see the games in person. I am a pretty big sports fan. I cannot name a more exciting consequential sporting event in my lifetime than the US victory over Russia at Lake Placid in the hockey semifinal game in 1980. That game was not broadcast live. People only saw it on delayed tape or repeatedly in later years on ESPN Classic, or the HBO documentary and the movie made about the hockey team. I still get a chill watching the second half of the third period, as the US holds off the desperate Russkies trying to tie the game and I know the outcome! There have been many other Olympic moments to remember.
Of course, I have many non-Olympic runner-up moments:
Game 6 of the 1975 world series was close -- Bernie Carbo's homer to tie it and then Carlton Fisk's game winner;
- the 78 Yankees-Red Sox playoff game (the Bucky Dent game);
- the Fighting Illini's amazing comeback against Arizona in the NCAA regional final at the Horizon in 2005;
- the USC Notre Dame and USC Texas football games in 2005;
- the last two Super Bowls;
- game 5 of the Knicks Bulls series in 1993 and 1994.
If you are not a sports fan, you may not get this -- but as a diversion, the drama of sports is hard to beat. So bring the world to Chicago, and let the games begin.
Forget the parking meters and the patronage jobs this week, and think bigger about this wonderfully diverse and beautiful city's place on the world stage.
Richard Baehr is American Thinker's chief political correspondent, and a Chicago resident.