Darwinian Branding
Brand Lobes

Blame It On Rio

Rio-olympic-logo As anticipated, pundits on all sides of the political spectrum are interpreting Chicago's Olympic snub as evidence of continuing anti-Americanism.  

Even President Obama's popularity in the left-leaning quarters of the world, they sniff, couldn't rub off on his adopted home town.  John R. Miller, a former Republican pol and State Department ambassador-at-large opined in the New York Times that "public opinion, it seems, is driven less by current events or decisions than by a deep resentment of America's powerful status."  

The lesson he drew from all this? "Pay less attention to foreign opinion surveys and more to our own ideals and interests."  Unfortunately, I think Miller is wrong on both his analysis of Chicago's failure and the lessons he draws from it.  

As the Times' sports section makes clear, Chicago's loss has less to do with the quality of its proposal than with an intramural fracas within the International Olympic Committee itself.  The U.S. Olympic Committee has had a rocky relationship with other IOC members ever since the Salt Lake City Games were tainted by a bidding scandal.  And many were irritated by its recent efforts to undercut the IOC's biggest funding source by establishing its own Olympic TV network. Finally, the eventual winner, Rio de Janeiro, offered the opportunity to hold the Olympics in South America for the first time. Anti-Americanism may not have played much, if any, of a role.  Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.  

But even assuming the problem was that "nobody likes us," as Miller's column headline suggested, the solution is not to adopt a "who cares" attitude.  That might have worked in the 19th century -- or even in the first two-thirds of the 20th -- but it won't fly in the 21st.  

Think of the biggest issues America faces -- nuclear proliferation, terrorism, pandemics, the economy, etc.  None of them can be addressed unilaterally. Even a country as powerful as the U.S. needs the cooperation of other countries in dealing with them.  And the latitude foreign leaders have to work with a U.S. president is a function the trust their own people have in us. One example: would Sarkozy and Brown have stood with George W. Bush to challenge Iran's hidden nuclear site? 


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