Emotion, Regional Loyalties Sank Chicago's Olympic Bid

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - OCTOBER 2: Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, left, Rio 2016 bid President Carlos Arthur Nuzman, center, and Brazilian soccer great Pele, right, celebrate with their delegation after it was announced that Rio de Janeiro has won the bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games at the Bella Center on October 2, 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The 121st session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to give Rio de Janeiro the hosting role of the 2016 Olympics over Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid. (Photo by Charles Dharapak-Pool/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Pele;Carlos Arthur Nuzman;Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

    The night before Chicago's tragic Olympic ouster, bid officials had been assured they could expect as many as 30 votes in the first round. Maybe even more.

    They received 18, and Chicago became the first city eliminated. How could anyone have gotten it so wrong?

    "Leadership, including the Evaluation Commission, and people who were thought leaders spoke out in behalf of Rio," said Chicago bid chief Pat Ryan, suggesting that the Rio juggernaut became, in the end, impossible to contain. "I think the groundswell of, 'We can go to a new continent because we believe Rio's ready,' kept them from really focusing on what Chicago was prepared to do for the Olympic movement."

    "It was emotion -- 'We've never been there!' -- that took over. The emotion took over," Ryan said.

    Still, Chicago thought leading into Friday's vote that they were well positioned. At least to stage a good fight.

    "It was commonly accepted in our group that we had a lot more support that we had in the first round," said venue operations chief Doug Arnot, indicating many in the bid team thought 25 or 26 votes was not an unreasonable expectation. But Arnot also suggested that Rio, which won the bid, had done a good job of politicking individual members, learning what those delegates might need in exchange for their support.

    "Who was looking to be on the executive board? Who was going to run a bid for 2018 for winter?" wondered Arnot. "Who wanted to have a world championship in a particular sport somewhere down the road?"

    "That's not by any means dishonorable. That's the way business is done," he said. "I think it was a game well played by the opposition."

    Ryan said he still believes some measures of continental loyalty cost Chicago votes. Under that theory, members vote in the first round for bid cities on their home continents. And Ryan says he believes some IOC members may have done it with the intention of voting for Chicago in later rounds.

    "The reality of it is that people, IOC members, were so confident we would make it into the second round, that they felt they could hand their vote to a regional city," he said.

    And Ryan said he believes serious arm twisting was taking place, even as the candidate cities were making their presentations.

    "Oh, I know we lost votes over lunch!" he said.

    The ultimate bottom line, is that it may simply have been Rio's turn. It was a bid which was deemed flawed in the candidature phase, but which eventually was branded as suitable and more than adequate by the time IOC members arrived in Copenhagen, paving the way for the Games' entry into South America for the first time.

    "The decision was made based on the fact that Rio was viewed to have satisfied all of these issues that had kept them out in earlier iterations," Ryan said. "People decided they were ready."

    It was with more than a touch of melancholy, that Ryan looked back on what will never be: a Chicago plan which almost everyone agreed would have provided spectacular Games.

    "I don't think the world, really knows what they missed!"

    Full Coverage:  Chicago's 2016 Olympic Bid