I am sort of an Olympics geek. I love the games, both the summer and the winter. My mom actually took my sister and me and two friends to the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games. We had tickets for the Women’s Downhill Skiing event, but if you remember, the Games were a bit of a mess and transportation to the venues was a fiasco. We never made it to the mountain and got Compulsory Ice Dancing tickets as compensation; still it was an amazing experience.
Tomorrow the host city of the 2016 Summer Games will be announced in Copenhagen, Denmark. The front-running candidates are Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Madrid. President and Michelle Obama will be there to forward the Chicago bid, which because of their star power is leading Rio as the top pick. Rio would be the first South American city to host a games. Mexico City was the host in ’68, but Rio has captured the hearts of South America and the hopes of the continent. I have to say, sentimentally I favor Rio, but having been there I can’t quite picture how the city could pull off the Games. I visited Rio and other Brazilian cities on a fabulous whirlwind trip with my dad and two of his friend’s in the ’90s. Security alone (every hotel room had a safe) is worrying.
I wrote a story, years ago, about Rio edging out cities in South Africa for the most crime ridden city in the world and the concern in Rio was palpable. I also remember being driven from the airport into the city, and drivers don’t stay in their lanes, they straddle; it was terrifying. I’ll never forget driving to a beach town and on a four lane highway a crowd was gathered around a dead horse.
Now I’m not saying that the Rio bid is not sophisticated or marvelous (Rio is arguably the most colorful and fun city in the world), I just am trying to imagine all the logistics. As for Tokyo, Japan hosted the winter games in the ’90s and Barcelona in Spain was the host relatively recently too, and the U.S. well there has been Atlanta, L.A. and Salt Lake City in the last 20 years, so it only seems fair that Rio be the sentimental favorite for most of the world.
So it comes down to Chicago and Rio. For Chicago it would mean a chance to be center stage, revamp the gangster image and give the world a taste of Midwestern hospitality, but it must be said, Atlanta and Salt Lake City have hosted in the last 20 years and my heart is leaning towards Rio…we’ll see tomorrow.