That was the word used to describe the aghast crowds gathered in Chicago this past Friday upon hearing the news that their beloved city had been passed over for the 2016 games by the International Olympic Committee.
Based on the poll numbers, most Chicagoans (and Americans for that matter) were confident that they would be selected over the other finalist candidate cities– Rio, Tokyo, and Madrid.
Why? Because they were convinced that the international celebrity of Chicago’s favorite son, President Obama, would nail down the deal.
It didn’t. I’m sure Obama’s oratorical passions were well-delivered when he addressed the IOC, but the body’s negative response underscores sentiment echoed around the world:
“The United States doesn’t get to dictate the rules anymore.”
So with the stroke of a pen, Chicago was the first city to be eliminated among the four finalists. In the end, the 2016 games were ‘awarded’ to Rio de Janeiro, which is an ironic BRIC nation follow-up to the 2008 summer games that were held in China.
(Fortunately, despite the embarrassing loss, Chicago will be better off in the long run– Olympic games have a tendency to be net negatives for host cities.)
The real irony is that the Chicago rejection highlights to most Americans for the first time that their country’s influence has truly waned.
Sure, the upper echelons of the American bell curve figured this out years ago, but now it is finally becoming obvious even to Joe Six Pack.
And while the talking heads were busy on Friday trying to determine how Obama could have conceivably lost to that Banana Republic down south, the *real* story of the day was going largely unnoticed:
The US government announced a few days ago that it was ending its decade-long deal with ICANN, the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. If the Internet is a superhighway, ICANN is the Federal Highway Department– it has enormous influence over the internet’s architecture and technology.
ICANN was established by the Clinton administration in 1998 so that one single body could have executive authority in the decision making process of internet architecture. Naturally, it has been controlled for years by the US government.
Over the last decade, internet usage around the world has grown dramatically, its fundamental plumbing remains largely American; users around the world who don’t speak English or even have a Latin alphabet have to use an anglicized system to access the web.
Russians, Chinese, Arabs, even Europeans– they’ve all had enough. The Chinese even threatened to build their own version of the internet if the United States didn’t give up control of ICANN.
And so, late last week, while many Americans sat ‘stunned’ from the realization that their greatest international celebrity could not influence a winning Olympic bid, the US government quietly gave up control of the world’s primary information and communication conduit.
Somewhere Al Gore is weeping.
Clearly, similar events which demonstrate declining US influence will continue grabbing daily headlines; realistically, though, this is probably a good thing for two reasons:
First, as more countries take a seat at the table of global leadership, the decision making process will become incredibly congested. I’m excited for this because it likely means that do-good western politicians will no longer have autonomy to execute their agenda around the globe.
Perhaps more importantly, though, having more countries influencing the global economy likely means that nations will be in direct competition with each other to attract talented people and capital. In the long run, this means lower tax rates, reduced regulation, and less obtrusive governments.
It is clear to me that Obama already recognizes that America must now share the power that it once held so tightly. With each passing day, more Americans are starting to realize it too.
Yes, it’s unfortunate that so many in Chicago had their hopes crushed with Friday’s decision. I have always loved the city and rank it as one of my favorite places in the US along with Austin, Miami, Savannah, and the entire state of Wyoming.
But it’s probably better that they begin to learn the hard lesson now, along with the rest of the country– because once the United States sheds its nationalistic superiority complex and begins looking at other nations as peers and partners, America will literally discover a world of opportunity.
And with that, I’m off to Shanghai once again. More to follow.