Top Olympic Bid Stories of 2009: #1 Chicago 2016 Derailed By Most Stunning Elimination in Olympic Bid History

For the second year, is releasing our list of Top Ten Olympic Bid Stories for 2009. These stories, from the mainstream to the obscure, impacted the course of Olympic bids and formed an interesting plotline for 2009.

#1 – Chicago 2016 Derailed By Most Stunning Elimination in Olympic Bid History

Although Rio de Janeiro’s historic Olympic bid victory will be remembered for a long time; the overshadowing news that came out of the 2016 vote in Copenhagen October 2nd was the shocking first-round elimination of Chicago. It wasn’t supposed to happen.

Almost unanimously, critics, analysts, bookmakers and armchair experts called this a two-horse race between Rio and Chicago – most giving Chicago the edge to win the bid. Chicago had a strong proposal from the outset – a plan that was compact; a beautiful lakefront; high sponsorship potential; highly appealing for U.S. television markets and ready-built world-class venues. Then to top it off Chicago, in a first for U.S. bid cities, provided the financial guarantees the the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was looking for.

And finally to shut down any would-be critics, President Barack Obama agreed to help the bid committee present the proposal to the International Olympic Committee at the election. This was a technically superior bid. had ranked Chicago in last place on BidIndex prior to the evaluation visit in April – but that had escalated to a close second by the time the October vote came along.

It seemed Chicago had the momentum to take home a victory as the other bids appeared to lag behind.

But IOC members had their own opinions. Only 18 out of the 95 voters chose Chicago on the first ballot, burying the bid in last place and causing elimination. An audible gasp echoed through the host Bella Center illustrating the shock shared by most who were observing the election. Chicago bid members were embarassed, the press were confused, hyped-up fans on Chicago streets were disoriented and the IOC members were unapologetic.

Several conspiracy theories were told trying to make sense of the results. Were IOC members insulted by President Obama’s high-profile but brief visit? Did the inexperienced United States Olympic Committee (USOC) leadership make the strong bid a no-go from the start? Was bloc voting used to shut out the U.S. bid? There may never be an answer.

IOC President Jacques Rogge agreed that the “big money” was in Chicago but that the selection of Rio proves that the IOC votes to support the Olympic movement and not for financial gain.

We chose this as the number one story of the year mainly because of the downstream impacts. The apparent snubbing of Chicago 2016 – as opposed to a simple loss – shows that there remains a fundamental problem in the relationship between the IOC and the USOC. Once again, the USOC will be reshuffling it’s leadership and will try to figure out how to build new friendships with the IOC, something that is clearly critical moving forward. There will be no 2018 Winter Games bid from the U.S. and there are several doubts that a 2020 bid will evolve unless things improve quickly for the USOC.

The IOC has exhibited a new confidence in dealing with the USOC – they’ve shown that they can’t be swayed by the financial power the USOC holds.

President Barack Obama took a big political hit over this at home, his gamble was lost and his influence overseas seems to have been overstated. The intelligence gathering used to determine Chicago’s chances of winning was flawed, another way to show that the USOC has a disconnect with the IOC.

The only certaintly that remains is that at Olympic bid elections – expect the unexpected.

Happy New Year from!

#2 – Rio de Janeiro Wins 2016 Olympic Games Bid

#3 – The Obamas Cause Distraction Prior To 2016 Vote

#4 -Only Three Suitors Emerge to Bid For 2018 Olympic Winter Games

#5 – Anti-bid Website Created Mystery and Finger-Pointing Among Rivals
#6 – Three Cities in the Running for Second Youth Olympic Games in 2014
#7 – Social Media Becomes Critical Tool In Olympic Bidding
#8 – Too Many Cheesy Bidders In Italy
#9 – Hiroshima and Nagasaki Propose Joint Bid for 2020 Olympic Games
#10 – The Maldives to bid for the 2024 Olympics

About Robert Livingstone

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.