January 7 , 2015
Tomorrow, the USOC is set to announce their choice for bid city in the race to bring the 2024 Games back to the US. I am excited to hear their decision, and eager to support the US bid effort.
That may come as a surprise to some folks, especially my friends here in Chicago. They may also be surprised that I am excited about Rio de Janeiro, with hope and optimism that the much-publicized issues there will be resolved and that the Games will be incredible.
But I propose that we – the world, and Americans in particular – need the Olympic Games, now more than ever.
While having dinner the other night with a close friend, this topic came up, and in the midst of the conversation, he stopped me and asked: “how can you still be enthusiastic about the Olympics, after all that you went through?”
He was referring to the nearly four years I spent as chief bid officer in the effort to bring the 2016 Games to Chicago, and more specifically to the agonizing loss we suffered in the first round of IOC voting five years ago.
It was a valid question. After all, he was a part of that team, and he witnessed first-hand the emotional and physical toll that the arduous bid process had on all of us.
He was there when I had the unfortunate responsibility to personally deliver the news of our defeat to our chairman and to our mayor, who arrived at the convention center just minutes after the vote.
He saw our team members break down in tears at the realization that all of our work had not been enough, as my wife broke down in tears upon first seeing me a few hours later, and eventually as I too succumbed to the agony of that defeat.
But, no matter how bad my memories of that day may be, they are overwhelmed by the positive experiences, friendships and inspiration that came from being part of an incredible team working towards such an important goal.
I have written
about the many positive legacies Chicago has realized as a result of that effort, and I harbor neither regrets nor ill will about the experience.
Conversely, my involvement in that effort inspired me, and it taught me of the power of the Olympic Movement; which lies not in the political machinations of members, federations, and lobbyists, but in the power of Sport to change lives, and the power of Olympic and Paralympic Athletes to inspire us all to be better, to do better, to do more.
This is inspiration we sorely need in our world; a world that is filled with tragedy, divisiveness and pain.
Negativity fills our daily lives; my 5-year old daughter asks why all the stories on the morning news are about negative topics; my 7-year old’s questions are even tougher, as she begins to grasp the nuances of racism, poverty, violence, and the fragility of human life.
It is rare to find examples of 'good news' to point towards, or role models to aspire to, but Sport fills this gap.
The positive impact of participation in sports is well-known, but there are similar benefits for spectators and hosts.
In fact, numerous studies have confirmed a correlation between the 'happiness' of a nation’s populace and the hosting of Olympic Games or World Cups.
Even more interesting, is that the national team’s performance (i.e., medal count) is not the driver of increased happiness in the population, the very act of hosting is what makes a difference.
The people of Brazil will welcome the world in 2016, and we’ll be awed and inspired by the power of Sport once more.
As I write this, news of a terrorist shooting in Paris is coming across TV, radio, Internet and social media.
Another tragic and senseless event; another reminder of all that divides us.
I can’t wait for next Olympic Games, and the opportunity to be reminded once again of all that unites us.