They have picked the four finalists for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games - Chicago among them - and we can only hope the selectors do a far better job for '16 than they did for 2008.
Chicago is among the 2016 finalists. The others are Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro. The final field has been voted by the International Olympic Committee Executive Board. That board, or something like it, did not distinguish itself by picking Beijing, for this August's Games.
All this has nothing to do with the horrible China earthquakes that could wind up with a death toll as high as 100,000. The world grieves with China for that and is trying to help all it can under the trying circumstances.
But when a site for the Games of this year was being chosen, China promised a number of major changes in its oppressive human rights policy. It said it would have good facilities, including less smog, good drinking water and a wide range of other benefits for the athletes and their followers. Yet the bloody crackdowns in Tibet along with other incidents show how poorly the issue of rights has been mishandled, or not dealt with at all. Many are fearful of the conditions that could cause harm to the August visitors, athletes and otherwise.
There is no comparison in what China has to offer and what Chicago would bring to the table eight years from now. The Illinois city is a contender to bring the Summer Olympics back to the United States for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Games. Madrid is bidding again after a third-place finish for the 2012 Olympics which will be in London. Tokyo hosted the Summer Games in 1964 when Kansas University-Haskell product Billy Mills staged his dramatic and unexpected 10,000-meter victory. Japan wants a positive Asian influence that China may be unable to generate.
Rio hosted the 2007 Pan American Games and would be the first South American city to get the Olympics.
Right now, any of those four could be expected to perform better than Beijing. Meanwhile, China takes pride in pointing out how some 300 million of its people are benefiting handsomely from the nation's economic surge. It makes no mention of the fact that some 900 million others don't even have decent water supplies.
The choice of Beijing for the 2008 Olympics turns out to be a serious mistake, considering Beijing's terrible air quality and the human rights situation throughout China. We can hope that the committee for 2016 is far better attuned to what it takes to project the Olympic image as it deserves to be displayed.