The IOC announced Wednesday that Chicago is among four cities still in the running to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. The other cities in contention are Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. Only Tokyo has hosted a previous Olympics (1964). Ever since the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, Chicago has joined San Francisco and New York City as America's perennially hopeful host cities. NYC lost the 2012 Games in a close race with London and Paris. London will host in 2012.
A Summer Olympic Games, as we're about to see with Beijing, is a frighteningly large event to organize and execute, even for most modern cities. The Olympics are financially and politically tenuous for its host; they can put you on the map and they can put you in a lot of debt. Selecting a host city isn't as fun as it used to be. Ever since the lavish gift and bribery scandals associated with the Salt Lake City bid were made public, IOC members have had to set rules for themselves, limiting their tendency toward corruption. But bribes or not, the Games must go on. Here is my prediction for how the IOC will evaluate the 2016 finalists.
Sorry, Madrid, but the 2004 and 2012 Olympics were also in Europe. Please try again next time.
Sorry, Chicago. It used to be that a North American city hosted a Summer Olympics every 8-12 years. But that was before the rise of dozens of foreign, formerly-developing economies that are now capable of hosting this event; before the gradual decline of American dominance at the Olympics; and before the more general decline of America's reputation around the world. What might matter most, though, is that the IOC is bickering lately with the USOC over America's share of TV and marketing revenues. Power and internal politics are very influential within the IOC. No better way to punish the Americans than passing them over for a different city.
Tokyo, you are very hard to resist. You are the safe bet. Not only are you a marquee international city, but you have a strong Olympic heritage, a vibrant economy and many influential voting members on the IOC (and the IOC takes care of its own). But an Olympics in Tokyo means no live events for the North American and European TV audiences. Plus, the IOC can't help themselves (remember their motivations for selecting Beijing?) and their belief that they need always to be making history and changing the world.
Congratulations, Rio de Janeiro. If you can put together a promising bid you will be the first South American city-and only non-Australian city in the Southern Hemisphere-to host the Summer Olympics. (No Olympic Games has been held in Africa, either, though Cape Town has been a finalist). Rio de Janeiro is in a time zone that is friendly for the North American TV audience and reasonable for the European TV viewers. --Ryan Quinn