George W Bush’s global unpopularity was a problem
As Chicago seeks to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, the American city can count one thing in its favour: George W. Bush won’t be president when the International Olympic Committee picks the winning city in 2009.
“If George Bush were eligible to win a third term, no chance with respect to the bid,” sports economist Allen Sanderson said, citing American foreign policy and a current president viewed poorly around the world.
But Chicago officials say they aren’t worried about an endorsement from an unpopular leader that might hurt the city’s chances.
“I don’t think it’s a factor,” businessman Patrick Ryan said after meeting with Bush, who publicly, supported the city’s bid.
The Bush administration’s unpopularity outside the United States is seen as one of the factors which hurt New York when it pursued the 2012 Summer Games.
Those games were eventually awarded to London, which got a big boost when then-Prime Minister Tony Blair spent two days lobbying IOC members in person before the decisive vote.
During Monday’s meeting with Olympic organisers in Chicago, Bush learned about some of the details in the city’s bid.
Chicago organisers must present a more detailed explanation of their bid to the IOC by next Monday.
“You got a good bid,” Bush told an audience.
“The United States of America stands squarely behind Chicago’s bid.”
Along with Ryan, leader of Chicago 2016, Bush met with Mayor Richard Daley, city organisers and U.S. Olympic Committee members.
His visit also included a speech on the economy at a downtown civic club and a visit to an elementary school.
The time is approaching for Chicago and the other 2016 applicant cities to submit a detailed questionnaire to the IOC that more fully outlines plans.
Chicago is one of seven cities bidding to host the 2016 Summer Games.
The others are Madrid, Spain; Tokyo; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Prague, Czech Republic; Doha, Qatar, and Baku.
The IOC will select the host city Oct. 2, 2009.
While Ryan downplayed any impact on the city’s bid by an unpopular president both here and abroad, he has said previously that the international status of the U.S. government and its policies “will always be a factor.”
“We’ll have a change of administration. Even if people are critical of the U.S. government administration and its policies, I believe Americans are respected and well-liked as a people. I don’t get any anti-Americanism,” Ryan said during a visit to China in April for a gathering of international sports industry leaders.
USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said what matters to IOC members is a government’s support of its nation’s Olympic bid, such as providing financial support for transportation and security at the games.
For example, he said the federal government provided a critical level of security for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.
“Support from the federal government is very important,” Seibel said.
“We appreciate the president taking the time to learn more about the bid and express on behalf of the federal government its support of the bid.”
Ryan said they didn’t get into specifics during the meeting with Bush about financial commitments for the Olympics if they come to Chicago.
City officials know the benefit of impressing Olympic officials with popular politicians.
When a USOC inspection team came to Chicago last March for a closer look at the city, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama lent his support to the Olympic effort in a videotaped message.
“Chicago is more than just a city in the middle of America, Chicago is the heart of America,” the Illinois senator said then.