When I heard that some people in Chicago were crying because the city was eliminated as a potential host of the 2016 Olympic games, I was baffled. I could see disappointed, but crying? Come on.
You see, the Olympic Games has a clever way of making it’s host city seem like a pristine, harmonious haven for the entire world to see. In order to market the games, the host city must undergo an arduous process of revitalization and glamorization. But with this marketable image, comes a huge disregard to the real societal undercurrents at work in these locations.
This past 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing was a perfect example. The Chinese government has been engaging in the systemic persecution of Tibetan people and society for years, and somehow, the Olympics was supposed to come in and erase this tumultuous past and legacy. That is what many Beijing officials had in mind as journalists were harassed and their cameras confiscated and smashed. The Olympics brings with it an international lens of sorts- the world watches as a city hosts the most spectacular athletic competition in the world- and many times host cities want to ensure that the international audience gets the best “picture.”
Derrion Albert was beaten to death when he was caught in the midst of a fight between two high school gangs on September 24th. He was only sixteen years old. Chicago was in no place to host the Olympic games when a young man was brutally killed in broad daylight. Beijing should not have hosted the games when so many Tibetan people have perished over the years, with no trace. Recently, I read that Rio De Janiero was looking to a “new beginning” with their hosting of the games. Well I visited Rio De Janiero for a study abroad trip in 2005 and it was one of best experiences of my life- the cultures, the people, and the spirituality all amazed me. However, I don’t think an “Olympic” image can help the thousands of people living in the hills- in the favelas that line the perimeter of the country- the kids without water who are swept into gangs like those same teens in Chicago. I am not sure if the “Olympic” image will help the many women in Rio who turn to prostitution because their color and gender deems them powerless and exploited. And I am not sure if all the hype over the Olympic games will stop corrupt, underpaid Brazilian cops from opening fire on whole favelas of innocent people.
If we want to create images of happy, pristine host cities, then we need to work on making them that way, for real. President Obama should have addressed the current plight of so many youth in Chicago- why it’s sooo backward for teenagers to be afraid to walk to school out of fear of being possibly killed, instead of flying across seas to lobby for something that would only create an illusion for the world. So no, I don’t feel sad or sorry that the Olympic games aren’t be held in Chicago. I feel pain for the family of Derrion Albert – for the hurt they must be enduring right now, and for the poor and bottom caste of people in Rio De Janiero who will be all but erased by what the games might hope to represent.