Congratulations to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for getting the nod to host the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. As those who live in the Lake Placid area already know, it is a very special distinction. The announcement was even more unique since no country in South America has ever hosted the Olympic Games.
The reaction by both news anchors and commentators broadcast on television in the United States that Chicago was not selected to host the 2016 Games was extremely disappointing. It was saddening to see the over-the-top level of American hubris.
Commentators said many people viewed Chicago as a frontrunner to be named but could not cite any reasons the city was being considered at such a high level. Newscasts said Chicago was dealt a crushing blow. It was called
devastating, and one broadcast said that people in Chicago were humiliated by being the first city eliminated from contention.
Humiliated? What about the honor of just being named as a finalist? How could a city, or country, assume it will have the privilege of hosting an Olympics?
Not one broadcaster or guest commentator said, “congratulations” or “good luck” to Rio de Janeiro. Certainly those in Chicago were hoping to have the honor of hosting an Olympics. Television cameras showed people in Chicago who were lined up, ready for a celebration, looking dumbfounded with disappointment — and
understandably so. It would have been nice for the U.S. to once again be on the world-wide stage of the Olympic Games, but whatever happened to being a
gracious loser on the world stage?
There’s a positive correlation between the U.S. arrogant reaction following the 2016 Olympic announcement and the loss of respect our country has garnered in the court of world opinion.
By contrast, in Tokyo, which was also in the running to host the Games, people were disappointed, but exhibited a better attitude. One supporter cried out following their city’s ouster, “We’re still in the running for 2020. Let’s try again!” Now that’s the spirit.
Not lost in the shuffle was the fact that President Barack Obama made a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, where the decision on the Olympic host was being made, to try to sway the International Olympic Committee in to selecting Chicago. His charisma helped him get elected, but did he really think he could swing the Olympic process?
For those in Lake Placid, Chicago’s loss serves as a stark reminder of how special it is to live in a city that hosted not one, but two Olympic Games — and has also been turned down. Being chosen as a host city is no small achievement, and Chicagoans should be thankful they were even in the running.
The Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau recently said the agency has moved a step closer to the branding of the region. Hopefully the distinction of being an Olympic host — twice — is not lost on those who make the final decision on the “branding” of Lake Placid.
The Visitors Bureau cannot take for granted that those who live outside the region have a firm grasp on what it means to host an Olympics, let alone two times. But the reaction of Chicago losing the bid should magnify the value of being a host city. Only seven cities have hosted the Olympic Games twice, two in North America: Lake Placid in the winter of 1932 and 1980 and Los Angeles in the summer of 1932 and 1984.
Our Olympic heritage is special, and the Lake Placid region must treasure and honor this distinction. It is part of our “brand” — what makes us a truly unique place to visit.
Hosting the Olympics is the real deal. And for our friends in South America, it’s the Rio deal.