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Friday, October 2, 2009

Olympics fever: Catch it ... or don't

Posted by on Fri, Oct 2, 2009 at 9:24 AM

UPDATE 11:44 am: Chicago was "stunningly eliminated" in the first round of voting, as was Tokyo.

UPDATE 2 1:08 pm: It's Rio.

This morning we step away from the hurly-burly of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Cary sports to consider the big question of the day: Which overreaching metropolis will earn the right to build billions of dollars of new infrastructure, displace neighborhoods, clean up its slums and become a two-week platform for the Olympic spirit and a future superhuman like Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt?

Yes, the 2016 Summer Olympics are up for grabs.

In the running are four cities: Madrid, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Chicago. Today the heads of four states and cities are pleading their cases in Copenhagen. The announcement will occur today at about 12:30 p.m., Eastern time.

Here's The New York Times' review of the contenders.

Maybe it's just us, but we're drawn to the arguments that the Olympics are a collossal waste of resources that could be deployed more productively. Yes, the Beijing Olympics were fun, as were the 1992 Barcelona Games. On the other hand, you've got some notable failures, too: Berlin in 1936, Munich in 1972, Moscow in 1980, Atlanta in 1996. The 1976 Games in Montreal, chiefly remembered for Nadia Comaneci, was a financial disaster that took that city decades to recover from. (Olympic Stadium, fondly known as the Big Owe, was only paid off in 2006.)

Anyway, here's Dave Zirin's discussion in The Nation of the considerable opposition in Chicago to that city's bid—a bid that has powerful supporters in President Obama and Oprah (who has more pull?). The video embedded above was produced by "staggering 84 percent of Chicagoans are opposed to spending any public money on the Olympics."

Chris Gaffney, a Triangle Offense contributor, is living and teaching in Rio de Janeiro. Here's his take on Rio's bid, posted on his blog. He writes: "Rio's primary arguments for hosting the games are emotional (see video below), based in a woefully idealized vision of a very small segment of the city."

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