CHICAGO — Thousands of people stood in bewildered silence in downtown Chicago on Friday after the International Olympic Committee surprised everyone by dumping the city from the race for 2016 Summer Olympics in the first round of voting.
The vote in Copenhagen was carried on huge television screens set up in the Daley Center to carry what many had hoped would be approval of Chicago as host. It had seemed so likely to many in a city still basking in the blow of hometown Sen. Barack Obama’s election as president.
Instead, Chicago was bounced in the first round, bringing an audible gasp from the crowd. The elimination came so quickly that some would-be revelers weren’t sure what had happened and they asked bystanders if they had heard what they thought they heard.
Many stood for a few minutes, staring at the screens, and at least one flung his hands into the air in a crude gesture toward the TVs. Within seconds, people began filing out of the plaza.
“I’ve never really had a disappointment like this,” said Ken Rudd, a 33-year-old salesman from Evergreen Park. “This is one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen.”
Chicago was in a race with Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo and Madrid for the 2016 games.
The Chicago bid had plenty of homegrown firepower, from Oprah Winfrey right on up to Obama and the first lady, South Side native Michelle Obama. All were in Copenhagen ahead of the vote and the first couple gave presentations to the IOC earlier Friday.
Randy Wood, 49, of San Diego said the IOC clearly wasn’t swayed by Obama’s influence.
“Maybe his clout stopped at the Pacific and the Atlantic,” said Wood, who said the early elimination reflects poorly on the president.
With Chicago well-known for public corruption and problems with public services, opponents had serious concerns about Olympics-sized hassles and bills, despite assurances by city officials that taxpayers wouldn’t owe a dime.
A recent poll by the Chicago Tribune showed residents almost evenly split, with 47 percent in favor of the bid and 45 percent against; that’s a drop from the 2-1 support the newspaper found in a February poll.
The 2016 bid committee said its own poll last week found support from 72 percent of Chicagoans, and that was evident at Daley Plaza on Friday.