I normally stick to the occasional post about skating, trails, or endurance sports topics, but since this website is focused on the Illinois canals, I'll weigh in on the fact that no 2016 Summer Olympic events will take place alongside or in the vicinity of the I&M or Hennepin canals (not that other than a cycling road race any events would have been anywhere near the canals) as Chicago lost its bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games to Rio de Janeiro. While winning the Games may end up being more of curse than a blessing for not only the host city but the host country as well, and not everyone thought it was a great idea to be host, that said, the process sheds some light on the US' Olympic management.
With the choice of Rio, the Olympics, having already been to Latin America before, now comes to a geographic continent for the first time ever (although the other countries in South America speak Spanish, not Portuguese, so do the Peruvians really relate more to Brazilians than to 1968 host Mexico [City]?), and we'll wait-and-see about the concerns of Brazil being overextended (hosting the 2014 World Cup) and the much discussed crime concerns. Let alone a history with bouts of hyperinflation although their economy is okay for now. I guess the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been mirroring the theme of global economic growth and specifically the ascendance in the global economy of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China)--woops, where's India and its billion residents in the Olympic mix--in rewarding recent summer and winter games (Beijing 2008, Russia 2014, Rio 2016).
In the post-mortem, I noticed a few things, one was a statement by a Swiss IOC member that "it was a defeat for the US Olympic Committee (USOC), not for Chicago" in a New York Times article. The article noted issues that the IOC has had with the USOC, "most notably over their stalled plan for an Olympic television network and their share of the Games' network and corporate sponsorship contracts." Further, its unclear the USOC ever really got behind Chicago's bid.
The USOC should be more of an administrative, support agency that governs and guides the individual sports that it represents, the Olympic movement in the USA, and most importantly, the athletes themselves. Instead, watching Peter Ueberroth hobnob with media bigwigs in Sun Valley and fumble through an interview about starting a television network made me wonder if the executives of the USOC are more interested in empire building and making themselves feel important rather than provide service to the sports and community they are supposed to represent. The USOC has other challenges, notably that major Olympic sponsors are being hammered by the recession (Bank of America, GM, Home Depot), and the USOC felt the need for a special ad campaign to raise funds for its programs--the "America Supports Team USA" print and tv ads. Nonetheless, in this challenging economic environment, the USOC decided to go forward with the major distraction of its risky plan to launch a television network devoted to Olympic sports (at the height of a recession). The rationale was that it would promote the Olympic sports to have them on television more often. In years past perhaps this was an acceptable argument as the only outlet was maybe ABC's Wide World of Sports, but today with Universal Sports available free over-the-air in much of the US (and cable in many locales and everywhere with streaming over the interent), as well as occasionally the major networks (particularly NBC), Versus, and the ESPN family of networks, there are plenty of outlets for the Olympic sports. (Why not spend the management energy leveraging, expanding, and prodding these relationships?) It would have been one thing if, for some reason the USOC didn't truly feel the time was right for the US to be host and wouldn't have supported ANY city in the US hosting the games in the near term and didn't get behind Chicago's bid, but the aborted effort of empire-building with a television network used up any sympathy the USOC might have gotten from me on that score.
The Peter Ueberroth show at the USOC has ended as has the recent David Lee Roth Radio Show, both men now live in our memories of things big in the mid-1980s, and it may be time to take a look at the direction of the USOC, as pointed out by Alan Abrahamson in his blog, Olympic Insider. Let's hope the USOC puts more energy into productive tasks such as helping the honest athletes cope with byzantine nutritional supplement rules and the Orwellian 24/7 drug policing while actually punishing the guilty dopers. Or focus on running the competitions, adding/maintaining/upgrading sports facilities, and developing junior athletes. But we'll have to see as I guess its a lot more fun to talk to Erin Burnett of CNBC about being a tv mogul instead.
Editor - Jim
This blog weighs in on topics such as long-distance skating, the Illinois canals, cycling, and a variety of related (and occasionally not-so-related) topics. I'd like to correspond with others interested in skating the Hennepin and I&M canals.