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Original Issue

It's Not You, It's Them

Chicago's Olympic bid was brought down by an anti-USOC vibe

Chicagoans upset by the city's failure to land the 2016 Olympics may find solace in this: They shouldn't take the IOC's decision personally. Chicago's bid was by all accounts one of the strongest ever by a U.S. city. It was bolstered by an 11th-hour appearance by President Barack Obama before the IOC vote in Copenhagen last Friday, a stirring speech to IOC members by his wife and a star-studded (Oprah!) cast of supporters.

Still, the 2016 Games will be in Rio de Janeiro, and Chicago received just 18 of 94 votes. The shockingly poor showing was more a reflection of how strained IOC-USOC relations are than a knock against the Windy City. International impatience with the USOC has been mounting since March, when the USOC board pushed out CEO Jim Scherr, a well-respected figure in the Olympic community. (Neither his replacement, acting CEO Stephanie Streeter, nor chairman Larry Probst, who took over his post one year ago, proved capable of navigating the IOC's insular political mazes.) This year the USOC and IOC got into a still-unresolved spat over the high percentage of revenues the USOC receives from IOC television contracts and marketing agreements.

In July the USOC angered IOC members further by announcing the formation of a 24-hour Olympic network—even though the IOC had asked the USOC to hold off. Says Denis Oswald, an IOC member from Switzerland, "You can't behave the way [the USOC has] and not foresee some sort of resentment."

A USOC housecleaning is probable. Streeter and Probst are the most likely targets, and some USOC staffers fear that the Chicago debacle may drive the federal government to demand greater oversight of the committee. The failure will also make other U.S. cities think twice about lobbying for the Games in the near future. Bid preparation cost Chicago organizers nearly $50 million. "Why would a city want to become involved," says Jack Kelly, a veteran consultant for U.S. candidate cities, "if it can only get 18 votes?"





BRAVO! Stunned Chicagoans (left) saw the Rio delegation celebrate.



[See caption above]