Jerry Colangelo: “It was a backlash. A little bit of anti-Americanism, a slap in the face at the President, people of the IOC upset with the people of the USOC for their actions.”October 6, 2009 – 10:50 am by timgunter
Despite four years, millions of dollars in planning and a last-ditch pitch from President Obama, the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid ultimately fell short. The city of Chicago was eliminated before the host city was even selected. Chicago only received 18 votes out of 107. With a large delegation headed by Obama, some feel that the reputation of America around the world was a large part of the decision made by the IOC to choose Rio de Janeiro, a decision that will set the games in South America for the first time.
Everything was put in place in Chicago: the venues, the TV revenue, the city has hosted a worldwide event like the World Cup before. The bid for the Olympics lasted four years and cost closed to $75 million dollars. Many believed that when President Obama elected to go to Copenhagen to deliver the closing remarks of Chicago‘s final presentation, the move would all but seal the deal to send the games to Chicago. It is not that Chicago lost the bid is what people of the USOC are mad about, it is the way that they found out that left them with a sour taste in their mouth.
Jerry Colangelo joined KTAR in Phoenix to talk about what transpired in Copenhagen, some of the things that the USOC has done that the IOC doesn’t like, explaining the sense of anti-Americanism, him finding out on the bus on the way to the elimination process, and what this says for future opportunities for the USOC to get an Olympics back here in the States.
On what transpired in Copenhagen:
“It is really an amazing thing. I spent 5 days there. We had quite a delegation. I saw too that David Robinson came in because he would be a great representative. We had a number of Olympians who were part of the delegation. Dikembe Mutombo came in to help with a number of people he knew in the way of delegates. I can only say to you that the money was on Chicago and that the safe selection was on Chicago. The most potential was Chicago. Probably the best presentation was Chicago and they got 18 votes out of 107 and it is pretty obvious what took place. It was a backlash. A little bit of anti-Americanism, a slap in the face at the President, people of the IOC upset with the people of the USOC for their actions. If you are following the wire services over the weekend there was a lot of attention to some of the things that I just said. You know there is a lot of finger pointing but I will tell you it is amazing, it is unbelievable. Tokyo, we were eliminated before we even got to the starting gate. As part of the delegation, we were on our way to the convention center for the vote and we found out on the bus that we were out. Without any further ado, it is just an amazing turn of events. It was pretty obvious that they chose to stick it to a few people and they did. That is the IOC for you. They have quite a reputation. That is not sour grapes that is just how I saw it.”
On some of the things that the USOC has done that the IOC doesn’t like:
“Well you have to look at the makeup at the IOC. It is kind of an older stodgy, political group. Most any little thing that is upsetting to them that doesn’t go along with how they want things to be is enough. But the USOC was kind of going off talking about their own television deal and creating some issues for the IOC that I guess really turned them off and it came back to hurt Chicago’s chances. Chicago spent close to $75 million on this proposal. They did a tremendous job. I give them great credit. Pat Ryan did a tremendous job of leading this charge and it is just a shame that…If anything I would say this to you: The 2 who should have been in the finals were Chicago and Rio. The safe bet would have been Chicago because it would bring more money to the table. It is more established. It has the venues. It has everything in place for the most part. Rio used the ‘Trump Card.’ The ‘Trump Card’ was South America has never had the Olympics. But everything they said they would do is on the come. They have to raise the money. The have to build the venues. They have to get it all cleaned up and on and on and on. So it was a stunner that Chicago never got to play.”
On explaining the sense of anti-Americanism:
“Well you know you have heard me say with my endeavors in basketball that one of the things that I sought to change was the attitudes of the American athletes. The basketball people were smug, overly confident and didn’t show respect. I still think that goes way beyond basketball. That just goes to the attitude out there. Just pick up the newspaper and watch the news and look at all of the anti stuff that is out there. Look at the delegation of the IOC. It is made up of people from all of those countries. So you just kind of felt it. I worked the halls at some of the hotels speaking with delegates and your gut instincts tell you if you are liked or disliked. It was quite an amazing experience. I would say for me and for a lot of people that were involved. I am very glad that I gave my support to my hometown, Chicago, for all of the right reasons. I felt that it was the best city to host. It would have been a terrific location but it wasn’t meant to be. I really don’t have sour grapes. I kind of sit back and…I was stunned when we got word that we didn’t even make it out of the first round. We got 18 votes. Heck I was responsible for 6 of them. I know that. We only got 18 votes.”
On him finding out on the bus on the way to the elimination process:
”Right. What happened is that we made the first presentation. We lolly-gagged around and we had press conferences and we finally got back to the hotel to watch the other presentations on a big screen. Then we were heading back to the convention hall for the vote. While we were on the bus, we were about 2 blocks away from the convention hall, and someone had their Blackberry on and said: We are out. They just voted us out. We never went back in the hall. We just turned the bus around and left. It is unbelievable.”
On what this says for future opportunities for the USOC to get an Olympics back here in the States:
“Well I guess the US television market is more money than all of the other countries combined. That was what was at stake here in not selecting Chicago or selecting Chicago and half of that money goes to the IOC. So they were oblivious to that and looked right past that and said: It doesn’t matter. Now if they wanted to award the games to Rio to help the country and South America, you could almost understand maybe an emotional decision like that. So my issue is not with Chicago and not winning, it is the manner in which Chicago was eliminated… Whenever something dramatic takes place, as I started out earlier, there is finger pointing, there is always some heads that roll, and it appears that the USOC leadership is being taken to task over the number of articles I am reading over the weekend. There is going to be some bodies in the aftermath but I am not sure who.”