Leadership Libations

October 5, 2009

The Map and The Man – How Rio Won The Olympics

Filed under: Uncategorized — robjelinek @ 12:41 pm

And the Winner is….Rio De Janeiro

A few days after the big announcement that Rio De Janeiro will be hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics, the hand wringing and blame game has begun. The headlines of the major players in news continue to focus on what went wrong:

While Chicago was the betting line favorite, much of that can probably be linked to the Obama’s decision to attend and the profile that brought to the Windy City’s Bid. The fact was that heading into the session in Denmark, many considered this event as a non-event. While nothing is certain where voting occurs, a compelling bid by one of the developing world’s most beautiful cities had many thinking the coronation was inevitable. But then the Obama’s committed to attend and the buzz that follows the first family and the world’s most powerful leader began to make the sentiment shift. By the time the speech took place on Friday morning, many in the Windy City and across the nation were assuming that Chicago would be awarded the event….or at worse case lose in a close final run-off to the eventual winner Rio.

Now everyone is doing the post-loss routine of finding a place to lay blame. Having lost my share of sales, I am the first to believe in the power of postmortem’s as a learning event. So as I looked at the noise, I decided to do my own mini-review of what happened.

Rio had the Map

Since their entry into the formal bidding process, Rio De Janeiro had been using “The Map” to build their case. Rio – really the first viable bid by a South American city – used the map to overcome the challenges and concerns of their bid. The world’s 4th largest continent with almost 400 Million people living there – no city has ever hosted the Olympics. Concerns about the challenge of this city hosting the Olympics so soon after the World Cup (they are hosting the 2014 World Cup) – their answer – The Map. What about the street crime problem – their answer – The Map. Infrastructure, air travel, timezones, proximity – their answer – The Map.

The Man & The Voting Process

Denmark Olympics 2016 Bids MadridYou might not remember the year that Atlanta was awarded the Olympics, but that was an upset. Athens was the sentimental favor to be awarded the games. Atlanta was one of two North American cities in the running, not to mention a strong bid by the Australians. Certain wisdom had the event heading to Greece. But that was where the process took over. Greece had more votes in the first two rounds, but a funny thing started happening in the 3rd round. Atlanta started to pick up votes. As the final three voting was announced and Toronto was eliminated, all was over but the shouting as Atlanta picked up 17 of Toronto’s 22 votes. Atlanta played the process and used it to win. Frankly, Chicago might have been able to do the same thing…..if they only could make it out of the first round.
The dreaded 1st round was more problematic in this narrow field than everyone realized. We’ve talked about the “Map” and South America’s very passionate point that it was time for the games to go to South America. They had a very strong core-group lined up not to mention the momentum to win past the first round (see Atlanta above). Throw in a very viable city in Tokyo, host of the 1964 Olympics and the only Asian city represented in the final four. While the Olympics were in Beijing in 2008, there is still strong regional pride and energy that would provide them “face” in the first round. The last contender and the one every one had written off was Madrid. Face it, London has the Olympics in 2012. Moscow in 2014. Everyone looked at Madrid as the sacrificial lamb of the first round. What everyone forgot was one man – Juan Antonio Samaranch – the 89 year old former head of the IOC. His simple lines:

“Dear colleagues, I know I am very near the end of my time,” he said. ” I am, as you know, 89 years old.

“May I ask you to consider granting my country the honor and also the duty to organize the Games and Paralympic Games in 2016. Thank you very much.”

The man, and his connections, played a huge role in keeping the bid for Madrid alive. Who understands the process better than one who presided over the process? Who understood the membership better than the man who was instrumental in many of these people being on the IOC? You only need to review the first round to understand what this man was able to do that ended the bid for Chicago before they even got going.

So, why did Chicago not get the Olympics:

  • Was it Obama’s failure?
  • Was it the world teaching the American’s a lesson?
  • A hangover of Iraq?

Me, I simply think it was the collision of two very big hurdles that had Chicago beaten before Air Force One was wheels up on the way to Denmark.

Need to find someone to blame….blame the Map & the Man.


Congratulations to my friends in South America and looking forward to seeing the games in RIO!

In the spirit of full disclosure – I voted for McCain, I was born in Chicago, I grew up in Atlanta, I have been to Rio and it is one of my top 5 favorite cities I’ve visited, and my younger brother lives in South America…..not sure why any would matter in all I’ve written above…but didn’t want folks to feel deceived.


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