When the International Olympic Committee convenes in Copenhagen next Friday to announce its selection of the host city for the 2016 summer games, anyone walking in the proximity of Madison's Concourse Hotel is going to hear either quite an outburst of cheering or a cascade of groans. If Chicago gets the bid, it will be the former. But if one of its rivals -- Madrid, Rio de Janeiro or Tokyo -- gets the nod, expect the pall of a big letdown to settle on Madison.
A Chicago Olympics would bring the cycling road race, time trial and off-road competition to the greater Madison area. Thus the building anticipation as the clock ticks down to October 2. Hosted by the Greater Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Concourse gathering will run from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the official announcement from Europe expected circa 11:30 a.m. Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Wisconsin tourism secretary Kelli Trumble are among the luminaries expected for the occasion.
When the four finalists were announced in June, Tokyo emerged as the early favorite with a score of 8.4 on a 10-point scale, followed by Madrid (8.2), Chicago (7.0) and Rio (6.5). Since then, handicapping the race has been about as easy as parsing the odds in the weeks and days and moments before the horses go to the gate. Depending on which nation's government officials and celebrities are making the most effort or noise, Madrid may be the perceived favorite one moment, and Rio the next. Then somebody reminds the world then President Obama is a partisan of the Windy City, or Oprah Winfrey speaks, and Chicago zooms into the lead -- bringing the hopes of Madison's cycling community right along with it.
The extent of the upside for Madison's economy and cycling infrastructure remains a bit speculative at this point. The impact could be huge and lasting, inducing more local bike sales and more cyclists on local roads and trails and regenerating interest in the sport at a time when current rising stars like Alberto Contador and the Schleck brothers are nearing the peaks and conclusions of their professional careers. Or it could be huge and transient, or moderate and enduring. The outcome won't be known for sure until 2016 -- assuming Chicago gets the bid and the Concourse assembly erupts in cheers.
If, however, the bid goes to Madrid or Rio or Tokyo, there will at least have been that extended period of hope -- akin to that span of time between the day you purchase your multi-million dollar lottery ticket and the day the numbers are pulled, and you find out they don't match the numbers on your ticket.
Until then, the countdown to the announcement is mighty tantalizing.