The hunt for an official scapegoat to blame for Chicago’s botched bid for the 2016 Olympics is over, and the villians of the story are now Homeland Security and the TSA.
It seems that the main reason Chicago got only 18 votes and got kicked out in the first round had nothing to do with Chicago or it’s plans for handling the Olympics.
But it had everything to do with the fact that Chicago is in the United States, and the hassles associated with entry procedures into the US apparently gave IOC committee members enough reason to not vote for Chicago.
The New York Times’ In Transit blog (h/t to Rick Seaney) published the following exchange between an IOC member and President Obama during the Q&A session following Chicago’s official presentation to the Olympic Committee.
Syed Shahid Ali, an I.O.C. member from Pakistan, in the question-and-answer session following Chicago’s official presentation, pointed out that entering the United States can be “a rather harrowing experience.”
President Obama, who was there as part of the 10-person team, assured Mr. Ali that all visitors would be made to feel welcome. “One of the legacies I want to see is a reminder that America at its best is open to the world,” he said.”
- Chicago’s Loss: Is Passport Control to Blame? – by Michelle Higgins, In Transit Blog, New York Times
Chicago’s Olympic bid is dead and buried. But this debate over why it happened may turn out to be a boon for U.S. Travel. The U.S. Travel Association - which offlate seems to have picked up a habit of being in the right place at the right time - led a travel industry delegation to meet with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napalitano on Oct 1. They discussed swine flu preparation and efforts to welcome more international visitors to the United States.
And then Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, quickly followed up with this statement – “When IOC members are commenting to our President that foreign visitors find traveling to the United States a ‘pretty harrowing experience,’ we need to take seriously the challenge of reforming our entry process to ensure there is a welcome mat to our friends around the world, even as we ensure a secure system. At the same time, the Travel Promotion Act is an important step in making sure international travelers know we want them to visit our country.”
End game here is that Chicago’s botched bid, coupled with the rebuff of the American Presidency, has created a powerful political force backed up by public support for easing entry procedures into the US, pushing the Travel Promotion Act quickly through the U.S. House of Representatives and getting it signed into law by the President.
Chicago’s loss is US Travel’s gain.
Photo by silas216