We're still a year away from learning who will host the 2016 Summer Olympics. But, while Beijing is fresh in our minds, I thought it'd be high time to consider the lessons and legacies of the 2008 games with an eye on the future.
If we learned one thing from Beijing 2008, it's that the Olympics are a perfect pretext for a massive security crackdown. So why not award the 2016 games to a city that could actually use a massive security crackdown?
The murder rate in the state of Rio de Janiero is down to 39 per 100,000, from a high of 64 per 100,000 people in the mid-1990s. That's still high, and one still encounters machine guns while browsing shopping stalls. Some think meditation may do the trick, but an Olympic effort to crack down on petty crime (not political opposition, mind you) could do wonders.
The other finalist host cities are Chicago, Tokyo, and Madrid. The United States recently hosted in 2002 and 1996, Japan in 2006, and Spain in 1992. South America has never hosted the Olympics. Considering Brazil's growing economic clout, the time seems to be about right to finally change that.
Plus, India is gearing up for a 2020 bid of its own. With Beijing 2008, Sochi 2014, Rio 2016, and New Delhi 2020, all of the BRICs would get the recognition they deserve as the 21st century's rising powers.
Of course, it is important that Rio be truly ready. As my colleague Josh Keating argues in today's Web exclusive, hosting international sporting events can do more harm than good for a country's reputation. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa, for one, appears to be headed toward disaster. But Brazil insists that it successfully hosted the 2007 Pan America Games, and would have proper practice after hosting the 2014 World Cup. Here's hoping Rio gets a good look from the IOC next fall.