01 October 2009

2016 Time for Change

On the eve of the official selection of the host city for the 2016 summer olympics, I've got to chime in and cast my vote. First off I'm a big advocate of the continental rotation both with the Olympics and the world cup, the two largest global sporting competitions. With that in mind I just see no way that Madrid wins the games after London will have hosted the 2012 edition. Not to mention that going back to 1992, the European continent will have hosted 3 of the previous 6 summer fesitvals. Madrid's bid, by all accounts, is flawless. They've already invested in building some of the most modern facilities anywhere in the world, check out the tennis center.

The government is firmly behind the bid as our most, if not all Madrilenos. But it would be just another well organized, safe but rather unspectacular games in another European capital and I think 2016 is ripe for change. For mostly the same reasons, I'm tossing the Tokyo bid aside adding that they already had the games in 1964. While I know that doesn't prevent cities from getting a second go (see London, L.A. and Athens) it does in this case combined with the Beijing factor, the games being held in Asia merely 8 years prior.
That leaves Chicago and Rio de Janiero. Surprisingly two cities I'm familiar with and have an affinity for. ChiTown is in many ways, a nicer big American city than New York. In terms of cultural attractions, diversity and an unquenchable flair New York has still got the second city trumped but one can't deny Chicago plenty of plaudits. The lakefront is stunning, no one has done a better job of truly preserving an urban open space. Public transport and ease of movement are world class with the "El" in the loop providing the city with that iconic image. And the natives are passionate, knowledgeable sports fans second, bright and laid back Midwestern folks first.
Now Rio, I do it no justice by calling it a geographical, topographical, vibrant, exploding metropolitan marvel. Mountains, jungle, waterfalls, monkeys, beaches, thongs, chopp, favelas, I could continue but I'm getting dizzy. What a scene man. You've seen the pics I know you have, in person, it's better. You've heard about the Carioca way of life, in real-time, it's richer. But here's the real reason I want Rio to get 2016. The games, if anything, in this era of uber commercialization and over saturation provide us with more indelible moments from the host city and host venues than anything else. Sure Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps were the stand out stars from Beijing but who among us will ever forget those opening ceremonies, the row after row of synchronous drummers. I know the Dream Team scored about 4,000 points en rout to the gold medal at Barcelona but I remember that archer and Barcelona was catapulted onto the world stage, a legacy which lingers to this day. Ali lighting the torch in Atlanta...I could go on.
Rio...Brazil...2016 could be the coming out party. Maybe people don't realize it cause there down there you know, south of the equator. Brazil is a massive country and finally beginning to leverage the considerable natural, social and political resources at its disposal. There should be no doubt that Brazil is a player on the big boy courts now. If you live in the U.S. chances are you recently flew on a Brazilian-made airplane, entered a Brazilian-constructed building or enjoyed a morning cup of Brazilian Joe (Joao to be linguistically correct). What the games did for Barcelona, they would do 20 times over for Rio and Brazil. Yes because the TV images would be stunning, the roads and venues would be in place, Pele would be smiling at the opening to the delight of billions. But also symbolically the games would mean so much to Brazil, so much more than to Chicago, Madrid or Tokyo, all cities in the developed world strangers to the challenges particular life in Brazil and so many other cities of the developing world. An Olympiad in South America is as long overdue as Brazil's emergence onto the world stage, let 2016 be the culminating event that makes up for lost time.