01 October 2009

The Olympic bid is not just about Chicago

In an interconnected world protecting America's interests requires a Olympic logoconcerted, coordinated effort on a vast array of fronts. 60 years ago China underwent a seismic socio-cultural shift, and despite our best intentions we lost our understanding of them as the "Red Scare" led to a purging of those who studied Asia and communism in this country. We can no longer afford that sort of isolation.

Michelle & Barack ObamaWe've embarked on a "War on Terrorism" that doesn't have fronts on a map, or massed armies. Fighting to win means engaging in ways that win the hearts and minds of people half-way 'round the world from us, people who listen to neither Jon Stewart nor the Fox network to inform their opinions of the USA. We have to both rebuild our alliances and work fervently on our reputation - we have to be seen as leading by our example on a range of issues from how we relate to the environment through our compassion for our fellow human beings.

Foreign policy is about more than insuring oil supplies and limiting nuclear proliferation. All our military strength and intelligence gathering wasn't enough to stop the terrorist attacks in 2001.

Chicago candidate Olympic logoWhat better way to show the world the value of our civil liberties than to put our freedom on display on the stage of world opinion by hosting the Olympics?

It's easy to assume the Obamas connections to Chicago are driving their interest, but the reality is they're using that obvious familiarity to the advantage of our entire country in this case. Plain and simply, this is a great chance to put our American principles on display, and it's just a fortunate coincidence that the President and First Lady have personal ties to the only U.S. city in the running for the 2016 games.

This subtle form of diplomacy doesn't lend itself well to sound bites and headlines. We send a message either way: shun the opportunity or Beijing Olympic logocourt the IOC?

It's an opportunity for businesses, including the beleaguered U.S. airline industry, and attracts visitors from overseas who spend money here instead of at home. Not enough to make a big difference to the balance of trade, but every little bit helps.

Don't overlook the real point. The reason Beijing was eager to host recently -- the reason Tokyo, Rio, and Madrid are still in the hunt for the summer 2016 bid -- is that world opinion matters, and hosting the Olympic games boosts any country's image.


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