Tracee Hamilton - Sports Columnist

Chicago's Loss Should Send Message to USOC

By Tracee Hamilton
Saturday, October 3, 2009

Blame it on the bossa nova. Or the boss?

Chicago not only lost its attempt to land the 2016 Olympics, it was absolutely humiliated. Going in as a front-runner, the Windy City got blown out on the first vote, before Madrid or even Tokyo, whose bid was so bland it was easy to forget the city was in the running. That left the way open for Rio de Janeiro and the first South American Olympics in history.

So now begins the sport that transcends all others, especially in Washington: finger-pointing. Three possibilities occur to me in explaining this crushing defeat: 1) Obama-slash-American backlash; 2) failure to rig the election (hey, this is Chicago we're talking about; you need to play to your strengths); and 3) revenge.

I am possibly the least political person in this country and certainly the least political person in this town, so if there were implications for the Obama administration in this, I wouldn't be the first to notice. But to call this a referendum on the Obama presidency is like saying Miley Cyrus is a better actress than, say, Meryl Streep because the Kids' Choice Awards say so. You've got to remember the voting body here is morally and ethically questionable (and I don't mean Nickelodeon).

Still, the combined wattage of the Obamas and Oprah Winfrey failed to bring home the prize. So perhaps it's time for the United States to step out of the running for a few years and mend some fences (or hope some of these crusty members of the International Olympic Committee call it quits), because it appears the IOC is beyond angry at the U.S. Olympic Committee.

For the past two years, the USOC has been fighting with the IOC over how to divide the revenue generated by Olympic television deals. How contentious is that issue? IOC members have called the U.S. portion of the money an "immoral" amount. And who would be a better judge of immoral amounts of money than an IOC member?

Talks on the topic have been tabled since March, and perhaps the ill will would have died but for the USOC's ill-advised announcement this summer that it would create an Olympic TV network with Comcast. The IOC went so ballistic that the deal was scrapped. "We recognized the error and hopefully have righted that," said Stephanie Streeter, the USOC's interim chief executive.

Keep hope alive, Ms. Streeter.

What happens next? The IOC has the whip hand in determining Olympic hosts, but it also gets gigantic pots of money from U.S. TV deals -- NBC paid $2.001 billion for the 2010 and 2012 Games alone -- and American sponsors. But perhaps the IOC has another sucker on the line for its next round of TV talks; that might explain the quick dismissal.

The USOC will now have to decide whether it wants to dance to the IOC's tune, and how much clothing it's willing to take off while doing it. After all, it's a boatload of money and effort just to get to this stage. Chicago spent millions just beating out Houston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and San Francisco to get to this final "Wipeout" round of competition.

The Chicago bid committee sent planeloads of people to Denmark. In addition to the Obamas, the delegation included Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, David Robinson, Nadia Comaneci, Bart Conner, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Al Capone, Bill Murray, Carl Sandberg, Wilbon, the Sears Tower and Mini-Ditka. (Michael Jordan couldn't participate; he was spending time with his family.)

Then they engaged in the bid process, which somewhat resembles the nonsense surrounding a beauty pageant: choreography and parties and despair, but a college scholarship at the end. For instance, the U.S. delegation held off-site rehearsals in Jutland to polish their presentation before heading to Copenhagen for what amounted to opening night.


CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company