COPENHAGEN - Chicago was eliminated in the first ballot of voting for the 2016 Olympics on Friday, a stunning defeat for the city that was expected to be one of the two finalists. Not even the presence of President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama — nor a long list of celebrities — was enough to help the United States’ third-largest city.
If Obama were wise, what could he learn from this experience?
A few starters:
Pick your battles. Focus on priorities. Don't overcommit your political capital except in matters of principle.
If you're going to use a canon on a mosquito, you'd better be sure you are going to get the mosquito.
Not everybody loves you. And adulation is not a purpose in itself.
You are the President of the United States, not the President of Chicago, the President of the Democratic Party or the President of the Radical Left. Put your energy as president into helping your entire nation, not just yourself, your voter base and your political allies.
It should cost about $200. Here's a picture of my new stadium:
This is not a model of the stadium, it's the actual stadium itself. It measures about 2 feet by 2 feet. My sports teams will be ants. Using a tiny brush, I will paint numbers on their backs. In football games, the ball will be a piece of sugar. The ants will play using what are euphemistically called "Australian rules" (no rules).
I will mount webcams on microscopes to record the action, and sell the TV feed for a fortune. Each team will have 2,000 ants. Cheerleader ants will be especially selected for their beauty. The spectators will be dust mites.
BEIJING, Aug. 13 -- Chinese Olympic organizers acknowledged Tuesday they were struggling to handle an unforeseen and baffling problem inside Summer Games venues and at the showpiece Olympic Park.
Not enough people.
Two weeks after announcing they had sold every one of the record 6.8 million tickets offered for the Games, Olympics officials expressed dismay at the large numbers of empty seats at nearly every event and the lack of pedestrian traffic throughout the park, the 2,800-acre centerpiece of the competition.
U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps won his third gold medal Tuesday in an arena with at least 500 no-shows, and there was a smattering of empty seats Wednesday morning as he captured his fourth gold in the 200 butterfly. The U.S. softball team played in a stadium only about 30 percent full on Tuesday, while the day before, 10 of 18 venues did not reach 80 percent capacity, officials said. Meantime, crowds of tourists and fans have been thin in the extravagantly landscaped Olympic Park, which holds 10 venues including National Stadium.
To remedy the problem, officials are busing in teams of state-trained "cheer squads" identifiable by their bright yellow T-shirts to help fill the empty seats and improve the atmosphere. They are also encouraging residents to apply for access to the heavily secured park.
. . . . Officials and observers offered several explanations for the empty seats. Some speculated that tickets reserved for sponsors and VIPs might be going unused in preliminary or qualifying rounds as officials with a claim to them wait for the finals. Chinese organizers provided large state-run enterprises with blocks of tickets, particularly to non-marquee events, to distribute to workers. Many of those employees may simply be deciding it is not worth the hassle to use them.
Critics of planned economies argue that planners cannot detect consumer preferences, shortages, and surpluses with sufficient accuracy and therefore cannot efficiently co-ordinate production (in a market economy, a free price system is intended to serve this purpose). For example, during certain periods in the history of the Soviet Union, shortages were so common that one could wait hours in a queue to buy basic consumer products such as shoes or bread. These shortages were due in part to the central planners deciding, for example, that making tractors was more important than making shoes at that time, or because the commands were not given to supply the shoe factory with the right amount of leather, or because the central planners had not given the shoe factories the incentive to produce the required quantity of shoes of the required quality. This difficulty was first noted by economist Ludwig von Mises, who called it the "economic calculation problem". Economist János Kornai developed this into a shortage economy theory (advocates could claim that shortages were not primarily caused by lack of supply).
There is also the problem of surpluses. Surpluses indicate a waste of labor and materials that could have been applied to more pressing needs of society. Critics of central planning say that a market economy prevents long-term surpluses because the operation of supply and demand causes the price to sink when supply begins exceeding demand, indicating to producers to stop production or face losses. This frees resources to be applied to satisfy short-term shortages of other commodities, as determined by their rising prices as demand begins exceeding supply. It is argued that this "invisible hand" prevents long-term shortages and surpluses and allows maximum efficiency in satisfying the wants of consumers. Critics argue that since in a planned economy prices are not allowed to float freely, there is no accurate mechanism to determine what is being produced in unnecessarily large amounts and what is being produced in insufficient amounts. They argue that efficiency is best achieved through a market economy where individual producers each make their own production decisions based on their own profit motive.
The lengths China is going to, to try to fix its problem of inadequate guests at Olympic events are both touching and rather sad:
Venues across Beijing were dotted Tuesday by the cheerful cheer squads. At the Fengtai Sports Center Softball Field, about 200 people sporting yellow shirts with "Cheering From Beijing Workers" inscribed on them in English and Mandarin sat in the scorching sun in the outfield bleachers, which were otherwise largely empty. Covering their heads with white caps, towels or pieces of newspaper to stave off the heat, they waved tiny red flags, red fans and inflatable noisemakers. Several described themselves as blue-collar workers who had gotten tickets from their factories or companies and had been schooled in the art of good cheering.
"Today, 50 workers came to do the cheerleading job," said Wang Li, 30, who works for an automobile manufacturer in Beijing. "Our company sends us to softball today, but other workers were sent to other venues to do some work. We come here on shifts."
Wang said the workers had been coached. They learned: "Olympics, Go, Go, Go! China, Go, Go, Go! Beijing, Go, Go, Go!"
Said Wang Wei: "The volunteers are assigned to cheer for both sides in order to provide good atmosphere. . . ."
. . . . The empty seats have raised the ire of those who made large investments in money and time to secure tickets.
Wu Qifa, 32, a senior digital design engineer, said the attendance at two weekend field hockey games shrank from about 60 percent capacity to perhaps 40 percent when rain swamped the venue. Despite the weather, Wu expressed frustration at the empty seats given the lengths she had gone to obtain them.
"When we wanted tickets, we couldn't buy them," Wu said. "My colleagues tried to buy online but were out of luck. I tried to line up to buy tickets but it was so impossibly crowded. . . . I think that some tickets for foreign countries are not sold out. Or some people who bought the tickets, but could not enter China."
Meng Xianan, 28, a paralegal from Beijing, bought her ticket for men's gymnastics online last year. But her seat for the preliminaries on Saturday was in the last row of the National Indoor Stadium.
"There were quite a lot empty seats in front of me," Meng said. "I suspect the empty seats are free tickets. It's unfair. As soon as I saw the empty seats, I was annoyed."
Added Meng: "I'm going to watch diving in several days. The tickets are from my boyfriend's company, which is one of the sponsors. From what I understand, they couldn't give all their tickets away last weekend. What a waste."
So those who want to buy tickets had to struggle to get them, and many lost out. In the meantime, many seats were handed out free to businesses that distributed them to employees with little interest.
By the way, this problem isn't unique to China. Any country that distributes tickets on some basis other than the free market will have similar problems.
If only there was some sort of "invisible hand" in China that could efficiently distribute goods and services to those who want them most!