But for Chicago, the rejection is a blessing in disguise. Winning the bid makes for a nice celebration, like the one on Copacabana beach Friday. But the pleasure of that pales next to the hangover that follows the actual event.
Getting the games means a city sacrifices considerable control over its financial future. If your vacation turns out to be more expensive than you planned, you can always cut it short and go home. But if the Olympics run over budget, you don't have the option of bailing out. You spend what you have to spend, whether you have the funds or not.
Olympics do run over budget, as a rule. Montreal, which hosted the 1976 summer games, just paid off the last bills in 2006. Athens, the 2004 site, spent three times as much as it had planned.
The 2012 summer games are still three years away and yet London's obligation has already quadrupled, to $15 billion. The former head of the agency set up to handle construction for the London Olympics says that before they are done, the cost may reach $40 billion. That's as much as was spent in Beijing, whose Communist form of government allowed it to dispense with fiscal sanity.
The residents of Chicago and the surrounding area no longer face the prospect of being hostages to fortune. They don't have to order city plans around an event that would be over in a flash. They don't have to endure the congestion and inconveniences that the games bring. Most important, they don't have to fear that they and their children will have to bear a lot of unforeseen costs.
It's no fun to get jilted in front of the world. But the only thing worse than losing an Olympics bid is winning one.