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It should have gone to Chicago

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opinion Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Let's face it. Chicago is just not the International Olympic Committee's kind of town. In a show of distain not seen since we threatened Libya with our Navy and Moammar Kadafi came out in a boat and made faces at it, the IOC rejected Chicago's bid to host the 2016 summer Olympics. And that wasn't the worst part.

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There were four finalists competing for the bid -- Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro. Chicago came in fourth.

Fourth! We didn't even get the bronze. And that still wasn't the worst part.

Barack Obama, president of the United States, leader of the Free World and Chicago homeboy, went to Copenhagen to plead his hometown's case personally. And the committee rejected it. That was the worst part.

How can he hope to convince Iran to give up its dream of an atom bomb when he can't even convince more-or-less friendly countries to give Chicago the Olympic Games?

The Righteous Right was tickled giddy by the result. Precious Leader Rush Limbaugh brayed his glee like an evangelist selling salvation. Cheers erupted at a staff meeting of The Weekly Standard, a little-read, much quoted journal of the Ideologically Impaired.

But my favorite incident occurred in Virginia, where "Americans for Prosperity" was sponsoring a conference. Attendees broke into spontaneous applause at the news that the United States had suffered a humiliating rejection. Apparently getting foreigners here to drop money into our laps isn't the kind of prosperity they favor.

Obviously then, the response of the Right had nothing to do with prosperity or patriotism or any other substantive matter. America's right wing is buried up to its neck in hatred for Barack Obama. It will accept any result -- lack of health care, high unemployment, a failed financial system, no Olympics -- if it causes him embarrassment or pain.

(Sometimes I think it would welcome an atomic attack on Los Angeles if it could lay the blame on Obama, and it probably could. Conservatives don't much like California anyway. Too much freedom of a kind they don't endorse.)

The Committee eventually chose Rio as the site of the 2016 Games. I think it made a mistake. I have been to Rio and I have been to Chicago. Chicago is better.

Oh, Rio is beautiful; I'll give it that. It's got that gorgeous Guanabara Bay and those spectacular ocean beaches festooned with very nice-looking people wearing smiles and precious little else.

But look closer and you'll find it's dirty and noisy and crime-ridden. The New Yorker magazine just ran a long piece on Rio's gangs, which virtually control large portions of the city.

Rio ranks at the very top of the world in "violent intentional deaths." Last year, according to police, there were nearly 5,000 murders in the city, 22 of them police. But the police got theirs back. They killed 1,188 suspects for "resisting arrest," more than any other police force anywhere.

And the slums, called favelas, are among the world's worst.

Things weren't quite that bad when I was there years ago, but they were bad. It was during Carnival and I went with some South American friends to a talent show at one of the favelas. It was a little city of shacks, corrugated tin and cardboard lean-tos, stretched up a hill. There was no sanitation, very little fresh water. It was a kind of hell, and it wasn't the worst favela around.

Chicago by contrast, is the quintessential American place. It bursts with vitality and confidence. It's easily our most interesting big city architecturally and is second only to New York in cultural advantages.

And yes it's got a beach and pretty girls and its slums look like Switzerland compared to those of Rio.

It's got its graft and corruption and its police force can sometimes be a bit stern (see the 1968 Democratic Convention) but basically, it's my kind of town -- American and proud of it.

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