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Why Obama Failed in Copenhagen

Given this background, the IOC members must have been skeptical of Chicago’s finances, which meant that Chicago needed a backup letter of credit. There was no way it could get a formal federal guarantee in time, or maybe at all. The most it could get was a White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic, and Youth Sport which would “coordinate federal resources, and act as liaison to, any organizing committee for an Olympic and Paralympic Games hosted in the United States.”

Such a guarantee is less than copper-riveted, so Chicago tried for the next best thing: the equivalent of a moral obligation bond in the form of an I-lay-my-prestige-on-the-line appearance by Obama. The message sent was that he will be president in 2016 and that his heavy involvement in lobbying for Chicago guaranteed that he would not permit these Olympics to be less than successful even if meeting the promise required him to fill the pipeline with federal money faster than the Chicago machine could steal it.

With Chicago as the bookmakers’ favorite despite the financial concerns, this pitch should have worked, which may be why Obama and his political people did not see it as much of a risk. The moral obligation bond should have put the city over the top.

The IOC did not buy it. Indeed, if the pre-vote odds were right, his pitch lost a lot of votes.

Which raises the interesting question, “Why?”

Four  possibilities come to mind. The IOC:

(1) Was off-put by the solipsistic appeals by the first couple;

(2) Did not regard Obama as a trustworthy keeper of promises;

(3) Did not think he would be able to deliver on his promise even if he wanted to; or

(4) Did not think Obama will be president in 2016, and doubted that his successor would be kindly disposed toward an Obamalympics or Chicago.

It would be interesting to learn more about the IOC members’ thinking, but this may have been the first meaningful opinion poll on the 2012 presidential race.