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On Wednesday, the IOC arrives in Chicago to evaluate the city's 2016 Olympics bid.
Chicagoans have always called the first week of April by a special name: winter.
Though traces of the weekend snow squall have faded and the deep freeze has lifted, the city’s magnificent parks — Grant and Lincoln — remain barren and the joggers that dot the lakefront are still cloaked against the ravages of that famous Chicago wind, “the hawk.”
So Chicago may not be at its most entrancing when the International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission arrives Wednesday to assess the city’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. Chicago is the first four-day stop on the commission’s calendar — a schedule that paid little heed to weather or geography — and will be followed by visits to the other finalist host cities: Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid. The IOC will vote on where to award the 2016 games on Oct. 2 in Copenhagen.
Just five months ago, the Chicago 2016 campaign celebrated the election of a native son, Barack Obama, convinced that the city now had an ace in the hole in this high-stakes game. Its fervent hope was that the new president’s popularity abroad would reverse a host of resentments against the United States, both within the IOC and the broader international community. And if the president could be coaxed to drop by Copenhagen for the pre-vote schmooze, he just might charm the games back to America, much as Tony Blair did for London 2012 four years ago in Singapore and Vladimir Putin did for Sochi 2014 two years ago in Guatemala.
There will, of course, be no presidential meet-and-greet in Chicago this week, as the president will be overseas on a slightly more urgent mission. Indeed, Obama’s election was pretty much the last good news for Chicago 2016. Since then the Olympic campaign has had to watch embarrassing political scandals stretching from the Illinois State House, leading to the impeachment of the governor, to Chicago City Hall, where a key member of Mayor Richard Daley’s cabinet was just convicted of mail fraud stemming from illegal hiring practices.
The stench of corruption emanating from that trials suggests that Daley’s new bright and shiny Chicago may be only a gussied-up version of his father’s political machine, which kept a stranglehold on the city for decades. (Similarly, a new crime wave conforms to many IOC members’ image of the city as Al Capone’s kind of town.) Moreover, any hint of bribery and secret patronage is an unwelcome reminder of the Salt Lake City Olympic bribery scandal that helped trigger the recent estrangement between the IOC and the American Olympic movement.