What went wrong was a failure to keep it real. The Obama White House failed to manage Americans’ expectations: anyone who knows anything about choosing Olympic cities knows that there was no chance in holy hell that Chicago was going to get the nod for this round. They should have just been honest about the need to represent the U.S. image in a global diplomatic setting while building the case for a Olympics in Chicago — if not this round, then perhaps in 2020.

Valerie Jarrett in MSNBC:

Senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett says she received assurances from folks in Chicago and on the US Olympic Committee that an Obama lobbying effort would put the city over the top. “The intelligence that we had from the U.S. Olympic Committee and Chicago bid team was that it was very close and therefore well worth our efforts,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House advisor. “The message was that . . . a personal appeal from the president would make a huge difference.”

I love me some Valerie to death but am I really expected to believe this from one of the world’s smartest people? Sure it would make a difference — for the 2020 Olympics. The messaging just doesn’t track. So why did the Obamas make such a big deal out of this. Was it bad messaging to the global public? Was it blind Hope & Change? Or was it a belief in their own magical powers to just make unbelievable things manifest?

Look, Rio was always going to get it. They’ve been pitching Rio for years. Cuz that’s how this works — it can take 3 or 4 rounds of applications before the International Olympic Committee decides to pick your city with tweaked presentations each time. That equates sometimes to a decade or two. Chicago is new to this. Also, we’ve had recent Olympics here (that didn’t go so well, by the way, with financial issues with Salt Lake City and that bomb in Atlanta).

Not to mention the hellish nightmare of security in post-9/11 America. The Obama Administration has yet to address the humiliating ritual all airline passengers flying into and around the States face (why are we still taking our shoes and belts off? this does not make us safer) along with the bigoted profiling left over from the Bush administration where people with the wrong, ethnic-sounding name & brown face on some giant list can be detained for no reason. And maybe miss their flight. From the Nation (in Pakistan):

The moment that upset USA apple cart came during Chicago’s presentation when an IOC member from Pakistan, Syed Shahid Ali, noted that going through US customs can be harrowing for foreigners. Obama responded that he wanted a Chicago games to offer “a reminder that America at its best is open to the world.”

It was Pakistan’s Syed Shahid Ali who drew the attention of the house to the difficulties that athletes and spectators would face in the USA. During the presentation Syed Shahid Ali noted that going through US Customs can be harrowing experience for foreigners. President Obama’s response to the comment that America was open to the world failed to convince Asian, African and Middle Eastern voters.
Even the French IOC member Guy Drut supported the view of the Pakistan representative of an excess of security. He had complained that he was barred from crossing the lobby of his hotel for security reasons. The city of Copenhagen was closed because of President Barack Obama’s presence. The financial disputes between the IOC and the USOC also went against Chicago.

The Obama Adminstration, fails, I think to underestimate the black eye our international prestige received when Bollywood international mega-star Shahrukh Khan was detained for two long hours at Newark Airport earlier this year. Unlike Skip Gates, Khan was not invited to the White House for beer. This was an error in judgment. That guy is hella popular in places we’re trying to influence like um, Pakistan and anywhere there is a South Asian diaspora. From HuffPo:

“I told them I am a movie star,” Khan was quoted as saying.

The reported detention made top news on TV stations in India.

Khan said he was able to message a lawmaker in India who asked the Indian embassy in Washington to seek his release. Khan was let go after embassy officials intervened, the agency said.

Wow: what happens to the ordinary folks who don’t have the connections of a movie star? How long are their detentions and how are they treated? How many IOC officials have flown to the U.S. only to face the gauntlet of American repression, airport security-style?

If Obama thought folks had forgotten all about that nasty international incident, they got schooled. It’s also interesting that the mighty O-Bomb was deployed for this mission. The Obama team doesn’t appear to have asked for Oprah’s help on the clusterf**k that is the healthcare debate. She could personally make all the difference when you look at an issue like the public option or the notion that Obama’s efforts on universal healthcare are “socialist” and not in fact, an attempt to bring Americans’ quality of life and opportunity to that of every other developed nation in the world. I understand hometown pride but come on…

It gave the appearance of a rich and powerful peoples’ boondoggle rather than the serious effort it no doubt was to match the efforts of other world leaders and luminaries such as the President of Brazil, the King and Queen of Spain & Emperor & Empress of Japan, etc. The Obamas should have been straight up about the high hurdles they faced in terms of the still-frayed image of America overseas, the issues with the US Olympic Committee and Rio’s compelling bid for the first South American Olympics ever rather than painting a picture implying omnipotence. Like they could just smile and shake their behinds attractively and deliver a freakin’ miracle. Michelle and Barack Obama made it personal — about them — not about the U.S. That’s how you get Republican jackasses who think it’s ok to applaud America’s defeat (who are the ones who hate America again?)

My hope is that administration officials will be chastened by this and get it together. First, let’s fix the issue with airports, security and visas. And yeah, we all know the Obamas are playas. But they need to keep reminding folks not to hate the playa, but to hate the game.

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