Olympic Host Cities

The International Olympic Committee announces the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics today. It will be Madrid or Rio de Janeiro. Despite the presidential push from Obama for Chicago and the green-friendly reasoning for Tokyo, both cities are out on early voting. It would have been cool to have the Olympics in Chicago, but only for selfish reasons (when else will the Olympics be only six hours away?).

When you look at the history of the Olympics, it’s been mostly contained in wealthy western nations in North America and Europe. South American and Africa have never hosted an Olympic games. The Middle East and much of Asia have gotten the shaft too. This Olympic host country map provides a pretty startling view. Only twice in history have the Olympics been held south of the equator (both in Australia: 1956 and 2000). I understand that infrastructure and security requirements need to be met, but it seems like those challenges can be dealt with. Besides, location doesn’t guarantee security (remember Atlanta?).

Here’s to hoping the official announcement later today will mean history for the Olympics. (Update: They picked Rio for history!)

Until then, let’s explore some Olympic minutia when it comes to host cities.

  • The selection process hasn’t begun for the 2020 Summer Olympics, but a number of cities are lining up. In the making history department we have South Africa, Qatar, India, Peru, Malaysia, Morocco, United Arab Emirates and Turkey. Even if the Olympic Games makes history today and go with Rio, it seems the 2020 games should continue that ground-breaking tradition.
  • In the not-so-historical department, a number of U.S. cities will be salivating now that Chicago is out of the running: Denver, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Birmingham (?!) and Pittsburgh have all shown interest.
  • Detroit has more unsuccessful Olympic bids than any other ultimately unsuccessful city with seven official attemps (Los Angeles has made nine bids, but they also hosted twice). Detroit made attempts in 1944 (3rd place), 1952 (5th place), 1956 (4th place), 1960 (3rd palce), 1964 (2nd place), 1968 (2nd place) and 1972 (4th place). If Detroit couldn’t host the Olympics at the height of their prestige, it seems almost laughable that they could win a bid now.
  • Yes, my hometown, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are considering a bid for the 2020 Olympics. There’s even a horrible web site that uses Comic Sans and a Facebook Group with 80,000 fans. The Twin Cities have tried and failed four times to host the Olympics: 1932, 1948, 1952 (2nd place), 1956. They also placed second to Atlanta as the U.S. host city in 1996. I love my city, but somehow I’m not sure if we’re Olympic caliber.
  • Time offers a glimpse of what happens to Olympic stadiums (auto racing in Athens is the coolest) and ponders the potential cost if Chicago hosted the Olympics.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the challenges Rio will face.

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