Copenhagen (BH) – Moments after the International Olympic Committee announced that Chicago had been eliminated as a host site for the 2016 Olympic games, a group of US politicians, celebrities, and media figures held a press conference to protest the decision as “based on racism.” The group, which includes two former US Presidents, distributed a release with the headline: “I.O.C. and K.K.K. are not O.K. with the U.S.A.”
President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, and talk show host Oprah Winfrey - all Chicagoans – had traveled to Denmark in the hope that their popularity would lend some star appeal to the Windy City’s bid to serve as the locale for the games. Conservatives have criticized Obama’s decision to appeal directly to the I.O.C. as “unpresidential,” and even many of Obama’s supporters considered it politically risky.
Former US Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were joined on the dais by US Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), comedians Bill Maher and Janeane Garafalo, and Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker.
Jacques Rogge, president of the I.O.C., announced the selection of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil today, using what the group’s press release called “the thinly-veiled rhetoric of bigotry.”
”I would like to congratulate the city of Rio de Janeiro on its election as the host of the 2016 Games,” Rogge said. “Rio de Janeiro presented the IOC with a very strong technical bid.”
At the hastily-assembled press conference, President Clinton decried Rogge’s words as “obviously dripping with racial hatred.” Garafalo, star of the film The Truth About Cats and Dogs, agreed. She characterized Rogge, the IOC’s 15-member executive board, and it’s 108 voting members as ”just another mongoloid tea party redneck mob,” and compared their decision to ”a cross burning on the lawn of the White House and the set of Oprah.”
Former President Carter weighed in, inexplicably railing against the USSR, which was officially dissolved in 1991 when the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus signed the Belavezha Accords. Members of the group shifted uncomfortably in their seats as Carter leveled a series of harsh accusations at the late Premier of the former Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev, who died in 1982; the single-term democrat called the committee’s decision “a deliberate effort by a powerful atheistic government to subjugate an independent Islamic people” that he called “a stepping stone to Soviet control over Afghanistan’s oil supplies.” He ended his remarks by solemnly declaring, ”It is for this and other reasons that I have made the difficult diplomatic decision to keep our athletes home from the games in Moscow.”
One of Carter’s aids gently led him away by the hand at this point. “It’s the jet lag,” the unidentified nurse explained as she slipped a pill into the former president’s mouth.
Comedian Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time,” stated, “To turn down this President, to vote against Chicago after that majestic speech he gave, would the I.O.C. have done that if it was a white President? I don’t think so. I think this is an international committee who thinks, ‘We can choose whatever city we want when it’s a black guy asking.’”
Congressman Barney Frank cited what he perceives as an economic edge to the committee’s racism, saying, “The I.O.C. gets to take things out on poor people,” He said. “Let’s be honest: The fact that some of the athletes are black doesn’t hurt them either, from their standpoint. This is an effort, I believe, to appeal to a kind of anger in people.”
Columnist Kathleen Parker was the last to speak for the group. She underscored what, in her view, is a geographical dimension to ”the racial prejudice” against President Obama. ”I’m just saying that there’s this subliminal level of communication that goes on,” she explained. “The Southern strategy has always been — well, since they stopped using the N-word and being explicit about what they’re trying to do with race and, you know, creating this “us versus them” dynamic, it became increasingly vague through the years. And you can’t get much more Southern than South America, am I right?”
Not everyone attributes the failure of Chicago’s Olympic bid to racism, however. One member of the executive board who asked not to be named said she and others objected to the President’s opening joke. ”As I begin, let me say this to the distinguished members of the International Olympic Committee,” Obama said, smiling broadly. “Please vote for Chicago. If you choose for Madrid, Tokyo, or Rio de Janeiro, you’ll be lucky if you can pull off the Special Olympics.”
When several in the audience gasped, the President looked around incredulously and asked, “What? What? What did I say? Tough room!”
California First Lady Maria Shriver, daughter of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, issued a statement expressing disappointment in the president’s remark. ”President Obama made a similar joke in March while on the tonight show. My mother died five months later. While I am confident that President Obama never intended to offend or kill anyone, both of his comments about this important event demonstrate the need to continue to educate the non-disabled community on the issues that confront those with a developmental disability.”
Presidents Clinton and Carter, Bill Maher, Janeane Garafalo, and Kathleen Parker have since released a second statement to the media, accusing Maria Shriver of serving as the “bigoted mouthpiece for the Neo-Nazis and Klansmen who populate middle America and hate this president simply because he is an African-American.”
London, England will host the next Olympic Games in 2012.