Thoughts on the eve of the 2016 Olympics decision


The people in one of these cities will be celebrating hard tomorrow, but frontrunners Rio and Chicago share other less attractive similarities.

The people in one of these cities will be celebrating hard tomorrow, but frontrunners Rio and Chicago share other less attractive similarities.



Tomorrow, Olympic history will be made.

According to many, Chicago and Rio are in a tightly pitched battle to emerge victorious for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Both cities are making precedent setting bids.

Chicago has the first delegation headed by a black woman, Michelle Obama, who is accompanied by her husband, our nation’s first black president. Rio is seeking to become part of the first Latin American nation in history to host the Olympic games.

Both cities are bringing out the biggest guns in their arsenal to try to clinch the deal.

Rio has brought Pele, the only three time World Cup winner in history and the International Olympic Committee’s Athlete of the Century.

We’ve sent Oprah Winfrey, billionaire media and cultural presence.

Beyond their bids, the cities share many similarities.

Both are part of countries with charismatic and educated presidents who have struggled to translate lofty promises of progressive change into reality for their country’s disenfranchised millions.

Both have some of world’s most beautiful waterfront.

And both cities have major problems of race and poverty.

Rio and Chicago have both poor people maintaining a tenuous grip on mainstream life and an underclass largely disconnected to it.

In Chicago, we have poor neighborhoods and hundreds of thousands out of work, many of whom have stopped looking.

Rio has both urban poor and residents living in the notorious favelas.

It’s a similar story with race.

Despite its face to the world as home of the First Lady and the city where her husband received his political baptism. Chicago remains one of most segregated cities in the country by any measure. A major city in the last nation in Western Hemisphere to abolish slavery, Rio has many, many black people still dealing with discrimination and racism.

The Olympics were originally designed to highlight international competition across national boundaries to celebrate the balance of sport, education and culture.

Whichever city wins, let us use this competition to have an Olympics for climate change that increasingly affects each of the continents in the five rings and the other two besides.

Let us have an Olympics to end the racism and poverty that thwart so many people throughout the world from being able to embody the Olympic values.

Sound impossible? Perhaps.

We’ve learned here in the past year just how hard it can be to translate transcendent moments into real change. But if the shattering of seemingly impregnable barriers so many of us celebrated here in Grant Park last November 4 has taught us one thing, it’s that what we think is impossible may not actually be so.

The effort, admittedly, would be, well, Olympian.

But, in the end, we will be judged not on how big our challenges were, but how we met our tasks.

Our children and grandchildren deserve no less.

That will be history truly worth making.


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