Good News for Chicago: The Olympics Suck Edition


Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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21 Responses

  1. Avatar Katherine says:

    I live in Victoria, BC and I’m thrilled about the Olympics, despite being worried about how the homeless will be treated. The Olympics are a chance to show off for the world.Report

    • Avatar Chris Dierkes says:


      You have a more positive take on it than I do that’s for sure. I think what gets shown to the world is not the real city but a manufactured gloss. To paraphrase Jacques Derrida, in the media age, what is seen is not what is produced to be seen. I fear it accelerates the trend towards turning Vancouver into this showcase world city, a so-called museum city.Report

    • Avatar Mark says:

      Not that I don’t have tickets for several hockey games at the Olympics…But I can’t imagine how this is a positive for Vancouver. Look at how much debt Montreal ended up with! I’m glad they built Skytrain to the airport and four lanes up to Whistler, but there’ll be many other projects that don’t pay off.Report

      • Avatar Katherine says:

        There may be, but overall I think the costs are pretty well managed – the main venues (Pacific Coliseum, Thunderbird Stadium at UBC, GM (aka Canada) Place, and BC Place) were already there. The main things built are the athlete’s village (and people I know working in the government think it will pay for itself over time, given property values), the Richmond Oval, and the curling arena. Compared to what most cities pay for the Olympics that’s not bad.Report

    • Avatar Kyle says:

      I’m excited for you, Katherine, are you going to be able to go to/see some of the Winter Games?Report

      • Avatar Katherine says:

        I’m going to see one of the preliminary hockey games – Canada v. Norway. It should be very cool – I never thought I’d get to actually go to the Olympics anywhere, much less right near home.Report

  2. Avatar Cascadian says:

    I live in Vancouver as well. I’ll be leaving for the three weeks of the Olympics. We live in N False Creek and I have no interest in going through security to leave my building. The only positive thing I can say about the Olympics is that at least it gave us well thought out infrastructure spending instead of just going off half-cocked with stimulus spending.

    I like showing off Van least of all. I’m a regionalist and don’t care for any more density than we already have. The big surprise is that the MSM hasn’t covered the slug flue and the ensuing pandemic that’s coming.Report

  3. Avatar Daniel says:

    Glad you said this. I’m from Chicago and have vacationed in Vancouver and the two cities remind me a great deal of each other. I can understand how someone from one city could transfer to the other very easily.
    Anyway, the funny thing is is that a lot of Chicagoans are pretty happy that we didn’t get the Olympics and these are smart Chicagoans I’m talking about. I have my reasons for being sad but they aren’t about the Olympics specifically, more the attention.Report

  4. Avatar Bob Cheeks says:

    OMG, did they diss the prez??? All that money spent flying over there and to be rejected….by old, European, white guys!Report

  5. Avatar Kyle says:

    Yea, but it’s a burden the Brazilians really want. That Rio was chosen, the first non-Australian city in the southern hemisphere, goes along way towards removing the hosting of the Olympics from the exclusive province of the wealthy and powerful. Moreover, the host country is guaranteed placement in every Olympic event. Something that, doesn’t particularly matter for say the US, Russia, and China, but matters a great deal to countries that aren’t competitive across the board.Report

  6. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    Was this another frustrated exercise in smartough diplomacy? When will this president cross the line into self-parody?

    I doubt that Rio feels itself fuc*ed. That distinction belongs to Americans, now that the prestige of our president has been wasted in this ridiculous effort to seal Mayor Daley’s legacy as king of Chicago.Report

    • Avatar Chris Dierkes says:

      well i’m biased as I completely anti all Olympics. So yeah I think it was beyond stupid Prez Obama (ok I guess for FLOTUS) to spend some much time and energy on this and make a personal appearance. Bad choice. Really bad choice, especially as it was clear they were going to pick Rio (the sentimental cinderella choice).Report

  7. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    This Copenhagen trip has given me greater pause over decisionmaking in this WH than has anything else that I’ve paid attention to so far. Yeesh, what a slow-motion trainwreck.Report

  8. Avatar Nob Akimoto says:

    While I agree with Chris’ generation sentiment re: Chicago and the Olympics (though I still think this would’ve jolted a lot of CTA spending that really realy realy really needs to go through)…

    Can I just ask what the hell is up with all this overheated rhetoric about “poor decision making”? Every other head of state and head of government (sans the Emperor of Japan) was there to push for their country’s candidate as a host-city. I think this could have been interpretated a lot of other ways, but I’m sure if he hadn’t gone there would be talk of how his arrogance in not going had cost Chicago the olympics or some other nonsense and he would’ve been labelled “anti-American” for not going there to support the US’s bid. On the whole: It was less than a day. He got work done on the flight there. Everyone else had their head of state/government there to make the push, too. If you wanted to demonstrate that the US was merely a “first among equals” and have some face time with important world leaders (Brazil is in the next couple of decades going to be a major world player, Japan already is and we have a new prime minister) I don’t think there was any prestige wasted. If anything it was a demonstration of what he already stated at the UN, and one that had no real consequence in terms of relative position of US power. The simple fact of the matter is the US had no substantial leverage here anyway.

    What exactly is the issue? That America is somehow exceptional and shouldn’t be groveling to the IOC like everyone else? Seems more like this whole “OMG PRESTIGEWASTED!” crap is just another form of overheated American exceptionalism. The only people who were arrogant (and possibly ignorant) enough to think Chicago had this as a “sure thing” are the folks in the American media who don’t understand the first thing about the world around them.Report

    • Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

      Well… here’s how I interpretate the “poor decision making.” It’s yet another failure of smartough diplomacy. The US president shouldn’t be using up his political capital unless the deal’s in the bag already. Getting the deal in the bag is what he has advisers and cabinet officers for. Obama plainly didn’t have an inkling of this. Is this situation parallel to the missile defense debacle a couple of weeks ago? Why couldn’t he get an agreement with Russia before going down that road? Why go in blind, trusting in his star power to get the deals? If he can’t get the Olympics in the bag, how can we expect him to get Iran, Russia, Israel, etc etc in the bag with his smartough diplomacy?

      Is Obama the disinterested observer who would have gone to Copenhagen no matter what city was involved? Politico doesn’t think so:

      “There’s no question that this whole exercise would not have happened had it not been Chicago. I can’t see him doing the same thing for Seattle or Sheboygan,” said Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution. He noted that Obama’s pitch for the city was deeply personal.

      Democratic strategist Chris Lehane said Obama’s trip seemed to have been driven by loyalty to Chicago rather than a dispassionate analysis of the pluses and minuses for the presidency.

      “Your typical politician would not have gone to Copenhagen because the political analysis is that there was little to gain and more to lose – but he did it because he wanted to help Chicago,” Lehane said. “At the end of the day it is his non-political brand that is ultimately his greatest source of power and leadership… And with that brand means sometimes you take short term hits for not following the politician’s playbook.”
      “Chicago has a very special meaning to him,” Hess said.

      Why is this not “following the politician’s playbook?” Would the CTA money fit into the Chicago patronage system so as to cement Daley’s hold on power and help Obama pay back whatever favors Daley still has in his favor bank? That seems close enough to “the politician’s playbook” for me.

      It turned out that Obama’s star power means zilch. It turns out that his fabled rhetorical charms mean zilch. Who have these charms and this face [Andrew Sullivan dixit] really convinced of anything in the past nine months? It turns out that his historic presidency means zilch. It turns out that smartough diplomacy means zilch. “Zilch” in this context is zilch for the nation. Obama did OK by it. He got the spotlight and the applause.

      Obama certainly did demonstrate what he had already said at the UN: we can’t dominate other nations. That fact is now painfully clear to me and everyone else. Why is this such a good thing, anyway, aside from wanting to be not Bush, who brought ignominy and social disgrace by upholding something so louche as American exceptionalism? Is there a more positive or rational reason to push such an attitude in foreign relations and national security? Will it somehow enhance our national security and achieve more world cooperation for our goals? In theory, maybe. But I haven’t seen it work out too well in practice yet. Have you?

      Not that Obama didn’t try to dominate at Copenhagen. In light of this, just how would you have interpretated the situation had Chicago been given the 2016 Olympics ahead of Brazil? Would it have been arrogant cowboy diplomacy to have used the power and prestige of the American presidency plus his own undeniable personal charisma to push ahead of Brazil in the line? That’s exactly how I would have interpretated this if I were Brazilian. What about you?

      If this is true, then what would be the benefit of your legendary face time with important world leaders, like Brazil? Will this upcoming major world player then be better disposed to help our country when it counts? Or would they be inclined to look for another ally, one who doesn’t practice arrogant smartough cowboy diplomacy to elbow the little guy out of the line?Report

    • Avatar Kyle says:

      I, actually, really agree with this. Nobody seems to be discussing Japan’s lack of prestige or whether it reflects on PM Hatoyama.

      At the end of the day, the votes just weren’t there. Which, is the only strange thing about this episode. Team Obama is nothing if not good at counting the votes….so how’d they miss this one? Maybe they didn’t and the President just wanted to support Chicago, understandable enough. Case closed.Report

  9. Avatar Chris Dierkes says:

    I think the difference is that Obama is so identified with Chicago politically and personally. His staff is all from Chicago. The Japanese PM is some new guy who had to go as a pro forma thing. Obama was clearly personally invested in this, so it’s seen (fairly or unfairly) as a personal shot against him. And it feeds the zeitgeist of American decline and the rise of BRIC etc.Report

    • Avatar Nob Akimoto says:

      Hatoyama’s pitch wasn’t a pro forma thing. He was actually pretty vested in the effort, partly because he’s from Tokyo (same place I was born, incidentally) is a 4th generation politician and a major torch bearer for the idea that the “whole of Japan” was behind the Olympic bid. One of his biggest appeals was to suggest that despite relatively low support for the bid in Tokyo (somewhere around 55%) that he was staking the “prestige” of the country (because of his recent electorcal landslide) by going and suggesting he represented the backing of the entire Japanese people. There was also the feeling that grabbing the Olympics would be a way for Japan to “retake the spotlight” so to speak after the Lost Decade had essentially forced it into irrelevance as an international actor.

      It was a big deal. Arguably significantly moreso than the US bid.Report

  10. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    Best line to come out of this so far:

    from Ron Flatter

    With his nearest spin doctor as far away as the Amazon, Lula made his counterparts – Obama, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatomaya – look like metrosexual façades.