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Almost as soon as Chicago's massive failure in front of the International Olympics Committee was announced -- seriously? dead last? -- the most popular theory for why Chicago lost in such stunning fashion took root. It was anti-Americanism. Or so goes the theory.
It was the first reflex, and it might not be all that off. Certainly there is some element of the IOC that prefers the Olympics to stay in Europe, or which resents America's position "capital of the world" attitude when it comes to sports. This theory is easy and convenient, sure, but it also carries some semblance of truth.
It isn't going away, not even at the upper levels of the American Olympic contingent. The latest to jump on the bandwagon is Jerry Colangelo, the director of USA Basketball. Appearing on a Phoenix radio station, Colangelo didn't mince words about the reasons Chicago lost the bid:
I can only say to you that the money was on Chicago and that the safe selection was on Chicago. The most potential was Chicago. Probably the best presentation was Chicago and they got 18 votes out of 107 and it is pretty obvious what took place. It was a backlash. A little bit of anti-Americanism, a slap in the face at the President, people of the IOC upset with the people of the USOC for their actions.
Like we said, the theory is persuasive, but it's that last sentence in Colangelo's quote that probably holds the most water. The bid failure probably has more to do with clashes between the USOC and IOC -- and ineptness therein -- than it does any overriding anti-new world sentiment. From NBC Universal's Alan Abramson (via Ryan Corazza):
If Streeter and Probst had been more attuned to such things, would the OK have been given in July to the launch of a USOC television network when the IOC expressly told the USOC not to do it? Really?
If and when the USOC and IOC ever patch things up, and if the USOC opts one day to get back into the bid game, whoever is in charge of the USOC ought to call Lee. If the man’s rate by then is $1 million, pay it. It’s the best money the USOC could spend, because he knows what the USOC doesn’t — how to win in the bid game.
In other words, former USOC chief Stephanie Streeter and her business-related ideas for the USOC, including going forward with a USOC television network launch despite the IOC's anger at the idea, had much more to do with Chicago's bid getting such a round dismissal from the IOC than did any overriding, amorphous sentiment. Colangelo might be right -- there might be elements of both in the disastrous bid results. But blaming the notion solely on the idea that no one likes us is not only defensive and defeatist, it's a bad excuse.
Chicago had a good bid. It didn't do well, for a variety of reasons. Throwing a temper tantrum won't fix that. Even more important, it won't get the Olympics back to U.S. any sooner.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.