10.27.09

Olympics says no to Chicago

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:35 am by Lalita Haran

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) rejected Chicago to be the next site for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Chicago lost its bid in the first round of voting. The U.S. President Obama’s presence at Copenhagen, didn’t make any difference. The loss may partially be assigned to the problems at immigration checkpoints routinely faced by the foreign travellers entering U.S.

Country’s strict immigration policy could have been a major issue here. One of the Committee members pointed that foreign travellers face a “rather harrowing experience” when they enter into the United States and questioned if the situation would be improved for thousands of foreigners who would enter for the Games. The President’s response to this question as reported by the media left me less than satisfied. He said, “America at its best is open to the world.” Now this may mean that we welcome everyone. But that was exactly the question from the Pakistan member of the Committee and the President failed to address it. As the nation lamented the loss of the opportunity to host Olympics, blames were assigned to whomever possible but let us consider what would become of the Olympics if Chicago was the host under the present immigration policy.

Sportsmen and women would have been denied entry if they couldn’t get through the immigration screening. So would be the organizers and the visitors coming to watch the Games. A point system seems to arbitrarily flag foreign travellers at the border for secondary and subsequent screening. Even people with exceptionally good background and no bad record can be flagged. If we would not let through the participants and others connected with the Games to freely come into the country, are we justified in hosting the world sports event?

Not surprisingly the U.S. Tourism is badly affected. Laws and other efforts to promote tourism in U.S. are underway. It should be noted that the recent bad experience of the indian movie super star, Shah Rukh Khan, who was detained because of his muslim name, was well advertised. The actor was let go after the intervention of the Indian embassy.

Frequent denials of visitor visa, high visa fees in addition to the excessively strict immigration check points at the borders do have side effects. Hopefully we learn something from all this.

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