[To non-IOC members who also haven’t heard of her, here’s a wiki to help you along]
An official, non-China-related Shanghai Scrap tirade:
I’ve traveled widely – perhaps, not as widely as some of my colleagues – but widely enough to know a few things. First, never exchange money at an airport; two, always pack single cup packets of instant coffee; and three, nobody outside of the United States has ever heard of Oprah Winfrey.
It’s this latter lesson that I’d like to discuss, briefly, as a result of the fact that many (US) commentators are shocked that the International Olympic Committee [IOC] had the nerve to snub her and – by the way, the Obamas – in turning down Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics (full disclosure: I love Chicago). The AP, for example, raised a headline announcing that “Chicago, Obama, and Oprah lose in powerful Olympic bid.” And the otherwise sober-minded Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN writes: “The two Obamas. Oprah. David Robinson. Daley. That’s a pretty impressive starting five for schmoozing.”
Yes, it is Gene … if you’re schmoozing a group of US Olympic Committee members in hopes of landing the 2016 USOC trials. But this is the IOC, and it has members from places like China, Namibia, Bulgaria, and Vietnam – all places where Oprah’s star has yet to rise, believe it or not. Yes, it’s true, in China there is someone sometimes called “China’s Oprah” – but it’s only the foreigners who call her that. In fact, so far as anybody around here knows, Oprah is actually “America’s Chen Lu Yu.”
I bring this up because – over the last couple of weeks – there’s been an undercurrent of concern that the people in charge of the Chicago bid simply didn’t understand the politics and subtleties of the personalities who constitute the IOC (in either case, a disreputable and corrupt bunch, no matter how you slice that pie). The fact that they trotted out Oprah (“I mean, she’s our most popular daytime talk show host!”), and not, say, Michael Jordan (someone whom the IOC members would’ve actually liked to meet), tells me that there’s something to it.
Live abroad long enough, and sooner or later you’re either going to figure out that the rest of the world doesn’t share all of your interests, or you’re going to find yourself spending all your time with fellow expats, looking like a provincial bonehead. Looks like the USOC took the latter path. Way to go, guys.