Chicago once had a reputation as the world’s sleaziest city. Organised crime, notoriously rigged elections, public officials whose decisions were sold are part of the city’s legend. As recently as last year, Chicago saw a monumental scandal involving its state’s governor who had appeared to be keen to actually sell the vacated Senate position previously occupied by President Barack Obama and was forced to resign as a result.
Of course the truth is that public corruption is rare in the United States, when it occurs it is very often exposed. Transparency International – the leading NGO analysing political corruption – says the US has relatively very little of it. Only countries like Australia have even less (a fact that must astound readers of The Age/Sydney Morning Herald).
CHICAGO TRUMPED AT ITS TRADITIONAL GAME
But for all its reputation as a tough city where any deal can be done if the price is right, Chicago yesterday ran into a vastly superior unit in terms of corruption: the International Olympic Committee.
Its bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games was widely expected to do very well, if not succeed, due to its professionalism and the personal hands-on involvement of the First Family who might be struggling to maintain their popularity at home but remain very highly regarded around the world.
Chicago’s bid was eliminated very early in the process as it turned out.
And it’s not unreasonable to consider why that might have been.
IOC DECISION-MAKERS SELL THEIR VOTES
The IOC has been previously revealed as being riddled with bribe-takers. An internal inquiry conducted by a long-time member of the IOC found that no fewer than 20 of 110 IOC members had accepted bribes including lavish holidays, hospitality, expensive gifts, jobs, free university places for relatives, cosmetic surgery and so on.
Aside from the cash for vote-casting, corruption is in the eye of the beholder. Any pretension that unbiased and impartial decisions are made by IOC decision-makers whose reasoning for selecting party-town Rio de Janeiro boiled down to their allegiance to the Rio bid boss Carlos Nuzman who called in many old favours to get his own way. Associated Press explains:
Nuzman is a suave, savvy Olympic insider who controls every important decision-making position in Rio’s bid. So in addition to familiarity, he offered his colleagues one-stop shopping for all their needs.
And we all know what that means.
While the IOC members are now no longer permitted to visit bid cities which provided the framework for many bribes, where there’s a will to bribe, there’ll always be a way. And it’s clear that Brazil’s bid was run by those firmly in touch with “the needs” of many IOC members, particularly from the developing world.
Australia’s representative on the IOC Kevan Gosper expressed shock at the decision to knock out Chicago’s superior presentation so early. And while we wouldn’t for a second suggest the prosperous and pompous Gosper would take a bribe, he seems reluctant to point the finger at those who do for fear of disturbing the collegial atmosphere around the IOC feasting table. He thought the result dubious too but naturally wasn’t accusing anyone of taking bribes:
Senior Australian IOC member Kevan Gosper surmised that Asian voters may have banded together for Tokyo in the first round, at Chicago’s expense. “I’m shocked,” Gosper said. “The whole thing doesn’t make sense other than there has been a stupid bloc vote.”
And of course the other explanation is that many of the decision-makers were motivated by bribes. Given the IOC’s form, the shocking results of even internal inquiries, frequent resignations due to scandal, the selection of Brazil, a jurisdiction where there’ll be much less scrutiny of bribes already paid and bribes to be paid to members of the IOC, is hardly a surprise.
Chicago was the unbackable favourite to win for the best part of a year as it became clear to observers and commentators they were going to have to the strongest, best-resourced bid, heavily backed by a US President more popular overseas than at home. Despite that, Chicago was eliminated in the first-round.
It is a remarkable tribute to the corruption of the International Olympic Committee that the city where American politics is played at its toughest level, where there seem to be bribery scandals occurring reasonably regularly was just never in the race against a body so riddled with wrongdoing it has become a sick joke and a profound insult to the incredible efforts of Olympic athletes and the billions who cheer them on.