Posted by Abe Sauer on October 2, 2009 11:48 AM
After an embarrassing first-round elimination by the International Olympic Committee as the site of the 2016 Summer Games, woe is Chicago’s new brand.
Just months ago, Chicago was on a high -- bestowing a popular president on the nation, with local congressman Rahm Emanuel tapped to help run things as White House Chief of Staff. The antics of Illinois' buffoonish, corrupt governor (once a Chicago congressman) Rod Blagojevich seemed little more than a comedic distraction.
And then, just as Chicago put its best face forward with its high-powered Olympics bid, the news was flooded with the video of a 16-year-old Chicago honor student's brutal murder by fellow teens.
Chicago's "stunning" early loss in IOC voting that awarded the games to Rio was a rebuff to famous Chicagoans Oprah Winfrey and President Obama, who went to Copenhagen to lobby for their hometown. The "Obama Factor" was supposed to bring “a huge exclamation point" to Chicago's effort. Municipal leaders pinned their ears back, and the city launched a snazzy, Flash-heavy website.
However, US politics site Politico warned that Obama had put so much of his prestige behind the city's bid that his own legacy would be "inextricably intertwined" with Chicago's fate. The popular, right-leaning Drudge Report news site was accused of hyping hysteria about the student's murder in order to sway the IOC away from picking Chicago. (After Chicago's loss, Drudge headlined "World Rejects Obama.")
Beyond 2016, the larger worry for Chicago should be that its brand is getting defined willy-nilly by too many news reports beginning, "In Chicago..." A strongly branded city can weather bad news. Oddly, Chicago, the "town that Billy Sunday could not shut down" seems to have lost its claim to the midwestern ingenuity that made it America's "Second City" of legend.
Don't blame it on Rio.