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Did Chicago Lose Olympic Bid Due To US Passport Control? 1040

An anonymous reader writes "Yesterday, Chicago lost its bid for the 2016 Olympics (which went to Rio de Janeiro instead), and it's looking very likely that US border procedures were one of the main factors which knocked Chicago out of the race: 'Among the toughest questions posed to the Chicago bid team this week in Copenhagen was one that raised the issue of what kind of welcome foreigners would get from airport officials when they arrived in this country to attend the Games. Syed Shahid Ali, an I.O.C. member from Pakistan, in the question-and-answer session following Chicago's official presentation, pointed out that entering the United States can be "a rather harrowing experience." ... The exchange underscores what tourism officials here have been saying for years about the sometimes rigorous entry process for foreigners, which they see as a deterrent to tourism.'"
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Did Chicago Lose Olympic Bid Due To US Passport Control?

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  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:19AM (#29626103) Journal

    Everyone I know who visits the USA these days tells me what a pain in the ass it is to travel here now. I'm sure everyone on the IOC knows all about that.


    • by rotide ( 1015173 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:28AM (#29626177)

      We once took pride in saying we were a melting pot of nations (racism aside). Now we're about the same, except we're a melting pot of xenophobes (maybe not at the citizen level, but definitely at the administrative/political level.

      Sad to see the great American nation turn from something I was once very proud of to one that I've considered, quite a few times, to up and leave.

      • by Ambient Sheep ( 458624 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:34AM (#29626215)
        It doesn't surprise me. I'm from the UK, and "Visiting the US" was always one of those things on my life's "to-do" list - seeing New York, going to the West Coast, visiting friends in Washington state, maybe even driving Route 66 one day if I had money enough and time.

        But now? Well, I've heard enough horror stories by now from friends and colleagues about entering the USA that, despite me having no criminal convictions whatsoever, I'm afraid it ain't on my "to-do" list any more.
        • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:47AM (#29626321) Journal

          And let me tell you, if people from the UK are telling you that your border-control is unwelcoming, then it must be! I also live in the UK. You can bounce around Europe crossing borders with little more than a wave of your passport and a friendly nod. Then when you come back to the UK, it's a bit of a shock. Most of the EU find Britain rather silly with how worked up about its borders it gets, given that the rest of it manages with less pomp *and* has direct land passage to outside countries. I've also heard some strong complaints from people I know about entering the US. Aren't they asking for retinal scans or fingerprints in some places, now?
          • by z_gringo ( 452163 ) <`z_gringo' `at' `'> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:01AM (#29626447)
            entering the US. Aren't they asking for retinal scans or fingerprints in some places, now?

            no. not some places. Every entry point takes fingerprints of every visitor who is not a US Citizen or legal US Resident.

            There is also some pain in the ass procedure that people have to do online. 24 hours before they get on the plane.

            The US has just totally lost it both on the entry procedures AND airport security. The only place where the airport security is more of a useless pain in the ass is the UK, but it is a close race. The UK and the US seem to be competing with each other on who can make the most worthless security procedures.
            • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:11AM (#29627061)

              I think it was in Gatwick, I was passing through the airport and I noticed that you could purchase a "token" for an express passage. When you used this token, it skips one of the checkpoints.

              This was not so much of a security checkpoint, but a cash-grab checkpoint. I had my computer in my arm and a wheeling suitcase, which sums up to two pieces of luggage. This not only exceeds airline baggage allowance, but it violates a security policy.

              Fortunately, there was a coffee shop next to the entry point, so I deeked out the lady working security and had a coffee while thinking about how to squeeze my laptop into my carry-on.

              She was working alone and couldn't do much when she was trying to explain the one-bag policy. It seemed lots of people could slip past her, some had more than one bag.

              So I waited for somebody to get stopped...

              ... then I slipped through the turnstile.

              Next time, I pay for the token.

              Of course reporting this or complaining about this could get me banned from flights and labelled a terrorist.

              • by Plunky ( 929104 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:49AM (#29627419)

                Of course reporting this or complaining about this could get me banned from flights and labelled a terrorist.

                Not to mention admitting actually being "Dr. Evil"

            • by Nicopa ( 87617 ) <nico.lichtmaier@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:22AM (#29627181)

              There is also some pain in the ass procedure

              Eww... I won't be travelling there soon....

            • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:37AM (#29627301) Homepage

              Every entry point takes fingerprints of every visitor who is not a US Citizen or legal US Resident.

              Incorreect. there are at least 20 entry points at the northern border that are unmanned and simply have a phone there asking you tell them you are crossing the border.

              If you fly into Canada and then drive to the USA, you can bypass all that crap, hell you can easily enter and leave without anyone knowing you were here in a few places.

              Our security is a complete and utter dog and pony show that is 100% worthless in stopping the Evil-guys.

              • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:06PM (#29627557)

                It's not that bad. The U.S. threatened to tighten the Canada/U.S. border with the claims you describe.

                The trouble is that Canada depends on trade with the U.S., so when faced with the option of tightening up the ten or so major international airports v.s. the 49th parallel, the great lakes seaway and Quebec/New England states, Canada opted for the former.

                So now Canadian border guards also ask stupid questions, but they're less overworked, better educated, better trained and better paid, so they tend to be more sane about border crossings. You still get checked carefully at Canada/U.S. border crossings if you don't have Canadian ID... and it's not quite so easy to get over the 49th as people might think. Sure you can throw a backpack on at night and walk along a dirt road for a while, but people do look for that sort of thing, and you have to know the area really well and blend in so as to pick the right place to cross and not upset the land owners.

                Terrorist: "Hello Greyhound, you drive busses right?"
                Greyhound: "Yep"
                Terrorist: "I want to go to this place."
                Greyhound: "Is that a satellite photo?"
                Terrorist: "no, Google maps"
                Greyhound: "What's it called? that place?"
                Terrorist: "Canada"
                Greyhound: "No the place on the map"
                Terrorist: "It's a place in Canada, near the U.S. border, how do I get there?"
                Greyhound: "I think you can take the bus to Sherbrooke and find a taxi maybe, but it will be expensive"

                Terrorist: "Take me to this place on the map.
                Taxi driver: "Pardon? Ques-ce Anglais, Pourquois? Ou?"
                Terrorist: "Eee Cee?"
                Taxi driver: "Ou?"
                Terrorist: "Tabernac!"
                Taxi driver: "We have er, English, er where is the um map?"
                Terrorist: "I am travelling to the U.S. to do nefarious things, like... I'm not quite sure, but I'll know when I get there, and I won't be able to get into the country because... umm, because... I don't know why exactly, but I decided to walk the Appelacian trail or something"
                Taxi driver: "oh kay!"

                Point is, if you know enough to get over the border through a backcountry crossing, you're probably not going to be stopped by the U.S. border guards anyway.

              • by Cassini2 ( 956052 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:22PM (#29627691)

                Incorreect. there are at least 20 entry points at the northern border that are unmanned and simply have a phone there asking you tell them you are crossing the border.

                In times past, that might have used to be the case. Nowadays, people near the border are reporting that those "defenceless" border posts aren't completely defenseless. If you cross-over and do not call, then you get pulled over by U.S. police or border patrol shortly afterwards. Granted, it isn't perfect security, but it is enough of a deterrent to make sure you use that phone.

                The serious drug runners have other routes that they use. The U.S.-Mexico border has scary levels of security, and both drugs and illegal immigrants get through. The U.S. Navy patrols the sea routes into the U.S., and both drugs and illegal immigrants get through. Additionally, on a smaller scale, the U.S. can't even keep drugs out of its own jails.

                More crime occurs across state lines than across the Canada-U.S. border. From a statistical point of view, the U.S.-Canada border is the safest border in the world. After a certain point, I think you need to ask: With all the security proposals, is anyone actually getting protected?

                • by innocent_white_lamb ( 151825 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @02:52PM (#29628857)

                  A few months ago a friend of mine decided to take his family (wife and two little kids) to the USA for a day of shopping. They recently moved to a town in Manitoba, not too far from the US border.
                  When he got to the border there was nobody at the checkpoint. He sat there for some number of minutes, nobody seemed to be around and nothing moved at all, so he continued on his way into the USA.

                  A couple of miles further along the highway he saw a large truck stopped on the shoulder of the road ahead of him. As he approached it, the truck suddenly swung across the highway to block it and three unmarked police cars came roaring up from somewhere behind him and boxed him in. His car was surrounded and he was ordered out at gunpoint (which terrified everyone in the car, of course).

                  He was ultimately taken back to the checkpoint in one of the police cars while his wife had to drive their car with the kids in it back to the checkpoint behind him -- she had a police car in front and behind all the way. They questioned them there for a couple of hours before they decided they were just dumb and not terrorists, then they released them at the border and they had to return home. (It was too late in the day for any shopping and who's in the mood after that, anyway.)

                  He asked them if he would be allowed back into the USA in the future and they said he would be, but never go through an apparently unmanned checkpoint again. I don't think he's ever gone back, though.

            • by apoc.famine ( 621563 ) <apoc.famine@gmail . c om> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:53AM (#29627451) Journal

              I'm from the US, and I worry about crossing the border! Should I bring a laptop? Do I need to delete all personal information off it in case they take it at the border? If I get harassed at the border, and stick up for my constitutional rights as an American citizen, will I get tossed in jail?
              When citizens have those sorts of concerns, I don't blame non-citizens for not wanting to come here. We've made the US completely hostile to tourism, because a dozen people came in LEGALLY, and launched a terrorist attack. which killed less people than a month's worth of auto accidents in this country.
              Really, I wonder if it wouldn't be better for tourists to land in Mexico and just illegally enter the country. A ten hour hike through the desert seems less painful than trying to deal with the Border agency legally.

            • by Linux Ate My Dog! ( 224079 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:08PM (#29627579) Homepage Journal

              Every entry point takes fingerprints of every visitor who is not a US Citizen or legal US Resident

              Strike that last part: I am a Legal Permanent Resident, and the last time I came in they wanted my picture and fingerprints too.

            • by 2phar ( 137027 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:12PM (#29627617)

              Every entry point takes fingerprints of every visitor who is not a US Citizen or legal US Resident.

              Actually, the DHS at Chicago O'Hare electronically fingerprint all fingers of both hands and take a face photograph of returning legal US permanent residents.

          • by E IS mC(Square) ( 721736 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:03AM (#29626473) Journal
            Do you any pattern here? UK and the US. Two countries with stupidest border security checks at the ports. Both leading "war" against terrorism.

            Looks to me that the "war" is already won - by the terrorists.
          • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:53AM (#29627453)

            You can bounce around Europe crossing borders with little more than a wave of your passport and a friendly nod.

            A little less, in my experience. While walking around in Basel last December, I didn't even realize that I walked all the way to Germany, until I saw a sign that read "France this way," "Switzerland that way." I used process of elimination to discern my location. On my way back, I located the border by observing the changing proportion of license plates, and finally a change in street sign styles. The only distinctive feature at the frontier was a section of sidewalk being replaced. I wondered if there had been a little shack for border agents once on that spot.

          • by Vellmont ( 569020 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:03PM (#29627545) Homepage

            You can bounce around Europe crossing borders with little more than a wave of your passport and a friendly nod.

            Sometimes even less than that. I visited The Netherlands and Germany in 2008. When crossing from The Netherlands into Germany I expected some big stop to at least check my passport. Nothing. The train was out between the countries (track work), so they had a bus. It never stopped, nobody asked me anything, and I got on the train in Germany without so much as a peep.

            Meanwhile I took a separate trip to Tuscon Arizona this past spring. Driving around in my own country I was stopped at least 4-5 times by Homeland Gestapo to make sure I was still an American. They were nice and all, a friendly wave and "Are you a US Citizen?". Being a white guy with a US accent they just waved me through.. but still. For those of you that don't know, Homeland Gestapo sets up stops on northbound highways perhaps 20-30 miles from the U.S. Border (at least they do in Arizona). I find it absurd to be stopped IN MY OWN COUNTRY just to make sure I'm still a US Citizen.

            • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:48PM (#29627891) Journal

              The Homeland Gestapo wanted to search the trunk of my car. Why I have no idea. Maybe because it was 10 o'clock at night and they thought it odd a Marylander was driving through Texas, and just assumed I was transporting Mexicans. (shrug)

              In any case the bastards made me stand in the cold night air for an hour while I steadfastly refused to open my trunk, and then finally let me go.

              I should have filed a lawsuit - C64love v. United States

        • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:47AM (#29627397) Homepage

          I'm afraid it ain't on my "to-do" list any more.

          It may be faint consolation, but TSA and DHS are just as thugish and dickish to US citizens as they are to our guests.

          I remember coming back to the U.K. from France and one of the customs guys dashed over to me. I thought it was a passport check, even though everyone else was just walking by. He wasn't checking my passport, he was running over to open the gate for me because I was dragging a suitcase and had my hands full with my passport, which he didn't even look at.

          Fingerprints, retinal scans, confiscating laptops and other portable data devices. The way we treat people coming here, I don't blame them for not wanting to visit. Not one bit.

          What I think is astounding is the pure gall of the conservatives, blaming president Obama for not getting the Olympics when it was their crap ass policies and politics that put in place the anal probe, 3rd world border treatment afforded our guests these days. Like we're going to forget who was behind it all. But that's been the pattern right along. Absolving themselves from any accountability by trying to pin it on someone else. Pathetic.

          I really don't blame you for not wanting to visit. We've brought this on ourselves.

      • by roystgnr ( 4015 ) <roystgnr@ticam.utex a s . e du> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:55AM (#29626399) Homepage

        We once took pride in saying we were a melting pot of nations (racism aside).

        Yeah, but that was before we realized that the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free might take our jobs!

      • by Snarfangel ( 203258 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:04AM (#29626479) Homepage

        We once took pride in saying we were a melting pot of nations (racism aside).

        I've always preferred the image of a multicultural tapestry. Better a colorful display of individual threads than a gray, undifferentiated mass.

      • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:59AM (#29627509) Homepage

        We're not xenophobes. Our government, or more specifically, the closed group of people that run the government and their keepers, are responsible for the state of things. Most people in the U.S. merely parrot what they hear on Fox news and simply don't care about anything beyond their favorite TV shows. Most people I know generally agree that even early on, the reaction to the events of 9-11 were simply too much of an overreaction and characterize the responses as little more than a power grab leveraging fears of the people which was spread effectively by added security measures and, of course, Fox news.

    • by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:45AM (#29626303)

      "The most ridiculous interview I heard with my own ears:
        Interviewer: "What did you have this morning as breakfast?"
        Applicant: "Bread." I: "Nothing else?"
        Applicant: "No."
        Interviewer: "According to American law, we cannot grant you a visa."
        Applicant: "....".

      I was sitting beside the person when he was rejected. You know, it is funny to reject someone according American law just because he only had bread in the morning."

      From []

    • by gilgongo ( 57446 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:52AM (#29626365) Homepage Journal

      Everyone I know who visits the USA these days tells me what a pain in the ass it is to travel here now. I'm sure everyone on the IOC knows all about that.


      I flew 8 hours from London to Dallas this year. On arrival, I then waited 2 hours at the airport, along with about 300 other aliens, while sullen border guards slowly checked passports, took photos and fingerprints (this often took several attempts per person), and asked seemingly innocent questions in slow, menacing voices. If I didn't know better, I would have thought they'd been trained in military interrogation techniques.

      • by FonzCam ( 841867 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:18AM (#29627139)
        US immigration and security go beyond being serious to the point that they come across as rude and unhelpful. UK airport security have pulled me aside for a random search whilst joking that it was due to the sports team jersey I was wearing. On a quiet day arriving in amsterdam I've had a guy call over his supervisor just so they could make make stern faces make me worry and then crack a joke about my passport photo. I've chatted with Polish boarder guards about their visits to my home country and had a French immigration officer laugh at my appalling French. Entering the US I've see people infuriated by officers who will tell them only that they have filled in the wrong green form, or filled the right one incorrectly but will offer no more help to non-english speaking visitors then to send them back to the back of the line. I've waited hours whilst people attempt to have their fingerprints scanned whilst having orders barked at them because they misunderstood the instructions. Most immigration officers I've encountered try to ask questions in a friendly conversational style but in the US it's a cross between an interrogation and a telemarketing script. After a few visits you learn the keywords for your answers and they let you through no problem!
    • by lysergic.acid ( 845423 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:53AM (#29627459) Homepage

      I think they should have 2 sets of flights/gates/check-in lines at the airport: one for regular people who would like for their total check-in time to take less than their flight time, and one for the paranoid "OMG! that brown person is speaking in something other than English!" crowd.

      This would greatly improve the traveling situation in the U.S. in several ways:

      1. Air travel could once again be painless for those who value convenience/dignity/privacy over the negligible improvements in safety provided by excessive security procedures. (Especially if you don't want your wife/children to be virtually undressed [] by airport security.)
      2. As a corrolary to #1, there would be less lawsuits and complaints filed against retarded airport staff (e.g. from a TSA goon forcing a mother to drink her own breast milk) since those subjected to these ridiculous security procedures are now willing participants.
      3. If you're a busy person or you're in a rush to get somewhere, you can always hop on a "less secure" flight and skip the 2-hour check-in time caused by someone leaving a nail clippers in their check-in luggage.
      4. If the TSA inspectors have less people to search, they can be much more thorough. (mandatory strip searches and cavity checks, anyone?)
      5. Since a terrorist is more likely to choose one of the "less secure" flights to hijack, those who are taking the "high security" flights can rest a little easier knowing that their chances of being hijacked have dropped from 0.000001% to 0.0000001%. Also, since those belonging to profiled social groups would likely opt for the less intrusive check-in lines, those on the "high security" flights would also feel safer sharing their plane with fewer Arabs/Egyptians/Persians/Mexicans/etc.

      This way, airline passengers get a choice in whether or not they want to take part in the elaborate security theater, and everyone is happy. Heck, even the airlines will be happier since fewer people would be deterred from traveling so their profits would go up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:22AM (#29626125)

    ...but you ain't gettin' my fingerprints for the privilege. What am I, a criminal?
    Reform your system, and you'll see an increase in tourism, with all the good that that does your economy.

  • by rundgren ( 550942 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:25AM (#29626151) Homepage
    I'm a peaceful Norwegian with two (many years ago) convictions for possession of small amounts (1-2 joints) of marihuana. My grandmother wants to take me to visit our family in Boston next year, and I'm not looking forward to it at all because of one thing only: US border control and visa stupidity. The US is the only country in the world to care about a stupid posession misdemeanor - I could go anywhere else without issue at all..
    • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:54AM (#29626381)

      The US is the only country in the world to care about a stupid posession misdemeanor - I could go anywhere else without issue at all..

      And yet Canada won't let Americans in who have a DUI (also a misdemeanor here in MN at least and no, I've never had a DUI). I don't agree with the border policies in place in the US but I also don't think your comment is as insightful as others believe it to be either.

    • by ( 447981 ) <> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:05AM (#29626489) Homepage
      Even without any sort of criminal record it's not a pleasant experience to enter the US, even as a Norwegian citizen entering via Canada. This May the robots routed me back form BSDCan [] (in Ottawa) through Washington, DC. It's possible that the fact that I did not apply for a visa (this was transit only, planning to stay on the ground roughly one hour between flights) complicated things a bit. As it turned out, in addition to the ordinary three forms (with more or less the same info in all of them) I needed to fill in a separate 'visa waiver form' (identical to at least two of the other forms in all other things than paper thickness, sheet size, color of paper and print and font) before getting to the fingerprinting, retina scanning and oral examination to check the validity of the information that I'd filled in, performed by a border guard who seemed to have been trained to appear hostile but was obviously monumentally bored by the whole process. This was after clearing the ordinary pre-boarding security theatre, mind you. And of course I would need to pick up the boarding passes for my connecting flights at the Washington, DC airport. That meant getting from one end of the airport to the other to pick up boarding passes and clearing another full act of security theatre in order to get back to where I could board the transatlantic flight. I did make my connecting fligh, running pretty much all the way except for the time spent lining up for the various security checks on the way. So yes, I can believe in a theory that US border control was a factor in deciding to place the next Olympics elsewhere.
    • by orzetto ( 545509 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:03PM (#29627539)

      Heisann, en av dine nye landsmenn her.

      I heard from a guy who was in a similar situation at a julebord a few years ago. He (a researcher at NTNU) had to go to a conference, and when entering the US he was asked whether he had previous convictions. He had, for "civil disobedience" (he did not specify, but I suppose it was bad enough to worry about). Realising that, had he answered "yes", he would have been denied admission and would have missed the conference, he managed to contact the Norwegian embassy or a consulate, and asked whether he really had to mention that. The embassy told him (not sure how explicitly) that he could say he had not, with the understanding that had the US border authorities checked with the embassy they would have backed him.

      So, congratulations US border authorities: you are being so much of a pain in the ass that even the institutions of satellite countries tell their citizens to lie to you. I suppose this will help catching whomever you are looking for.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:26AM (#29626155)

    I thought that was the whole point.

    What's that? They're for stopping TERRORISM, you say? Naaaaah, can't be.

    (I once went one a round-the-world holiday. At Fiji's passport control, they gave us garlands, and serenaded us with guitars; at US passport control they growled at us.)

    • by cptdondo ( 59460 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:03PM (#29627537) Journal

      I carry both a US and a Czech passport. I can travel anywhere in the former communist nations without a second look. Heck, this last time I didn't even get a stamp. We went through Amsterdam and it took a few seconds and I got a smile from a pretty cute immigration lady.

      But on coming back to the States, I'm treated like a criminal - where have you been, what did you do, what are you bringing back, did you do this or that, what's in that bag....

      I hate it.

      And the irony isn't lost on me - we (the US) pride ourselves on our freedoms, but we have instituted what is probably the most draconian entry system in the free world. And the former communist nations, which boast no claims of freedom, allow me to travel unhindered, with a wave and a smile.

      Maybe this will be a wakeup call to the US that we've gone completely off the deep end here.

  • by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:29AM (#29626183)
    I've read it years ago that the USA is losing billions per year in tourism after the 9/11 border restrictions.

    The Olympics became a disgustingly commercial event for the past few decades and corporations are going to put pressure towards a location where prospective visitors aren't put off by over the top security measures...

    The next time someone asks what's the harm in the security theatre, point them towards the loss of tourism. I have to say I'm one of those people who deeply resent the invasive fingerprint taking entrance to the USA. It's a shame that stupid border procedures prevent me from visiting an otherwise beautiful country...
  • by AndGodSed ( 968378 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:32AM (#29626197) Homepage Journal

    Well it could also be because a Rio olympics would be really awesome. I don't think Chicago could compete on atmosphere with Rio.

  • Personal Example (Score:5, Interesting)

    by inicom ( 81356 ) <> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:34AM (#29626211) Homepage

    I can give you a personal example of this - my father is a 76-year old western european citizen, and has been to the US easily a hundred times and was a US resident for over a decade. And as a merchant, he's spent easily many hundred of thousands on goods in the US over the past 40 years. Last Christmas, he came over to see us, and at the local International Airport he was pulled aside, patted down, his baggage and items gone over in detail, and interrogated for 20 minutes. Why? No reason given. As a result, he doesn't want to come to the US at all any more, so we have to go visit in Europe or rendezvous in another 3rd country. Yea, I know, we get to go to Europe more often, but it's a lot more expensive & difficult to coordinate schedules and take the family than to have one person travel here.

    I spent a lot of last year overseas on projects - and I heard over and over again from people that no longer think it's worth it to come to the US for shows/conferences/travel because of the travel restrictions and attitude toward non-US citizens by customs and immigration.

  • They may be lucky! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gilgongo ( 57446 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:38AM (#29626249) Homepage Journal

    I live in London, where just about anyone you ask who lives here will tell you they don't want the games, never wanted the games, and are angry that money to fund the building of venues and facilities is being taken from National Lottery funds and (possibly) direct taxation.

    Mileage varies considerably in the short and long-term economic and social effects [] of hosting an Olympics. London doesn't need it, and Chicago may well not have done either.

    • by zmollusc ( 763634 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:58AM (#29626419)

      The London Olympics have epic potential for showcasing the UK. The cycling events should all be on the pot-holed, speed-bumped, litter-filled streets and have to comply with all road laws, the weight lifters would all be subject to health and safety legislation, as would the hammer and javelin throwers. Runners would struggle down the uneven, excrement-smeared pavements, dodging around the lamp-posts, bollards and fencing etc.

    • Actually... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:11AM (#29626557) Journal

      From all those cities listed in the report linked above, only Athens seems to have failed to properly exploit the effect of hosting the Olympic Games.
      All other cites (Barcelona, Atlanta, Sidney, Beijing) reported nothing but growth.

      London doesn't need it, and Chicago may well not have done either.

      A global metropolis that can say "I'll pass" to billions invested in the infrastructure, millions of visitors and billions of pounds/dollars/euros spent by everyone?
      No such place on this planet.
      The effect on the crime and pollution alone (clean streets) is worth the trouble for the average Tom, Dick and Harry.
      Those must be some crazy conservative xenophobes you talked to.
      Not wanting money during a global economic crisis. Mad as bicycles that lot.

      • Re:Actually... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:46AM (#29626863) Journal

        You can clean your streets without having the banner of five rings looming over them. Do you think that the olympic committee comes in and does the work?

        You can invest money in infrastructure without an international committee overseeing the work, too. Where do you think those "billions invested" come from? It's not the organization that runs the olympics.

        Instead of adding those billions to the "benefits", you should subtract them. And when figuring the boost, you have to recall six years of spending with no payoff until the end. What would that spending have gone towards if it hadn't been directed at grown men playing children's games? Growth, I'll bet.

        There is no economic reason for any city to host any sporting event. Let the event organizers pay for and reap the profits if it's so great.

        That said, Chicago didn't lose. Rio won the decision. They weren't voting against chicago. Are we really so vain that we probably think the choice was about US?

      • Re:Actually... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by adamkennedy ( 121032 ) <adamk@c[ ].org ['pan' in gap]> on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:18AM (#29627143) Homepage

        Speaking as a long-time "Sidney" resident, I gotta say we were all a bit annoyed by the whole damned thing too, the fact they ripped up half the CBD, the endless news stories, the drama bombs, the wasted money, the roads that were all going to be closed, and all the general getting ready crap. People were wearing "Fuck The Olympics" shirts openly in the streets.

        And then the games started.

        And it was a fucking awesome enormous city wide party that lasted for 2-3 weeks, all the horrible concrete repeatedly torn up footpaths had been replaced with highly skatable and cable-friendly slate all through the centre city, there were no building sites anywhere, the pubs and bars were all full, and it just generally kicked ass.

        While I don't by any means underestimate the ability of Londoners to put a negative light on something, I have this suspicion that it's the same for every city that hosts it. A sort of preparation and drama filled pregnancy, filled with hormonal outbursts and morning sickness.

        Wait till the games actually start, it will be a different place.

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:38AM (#29626255) Homepage
    And get precleared through US immigration while still within a civilised country []? No joking: if the Security Theatre misidentifies me as a notorious enemy of Freedemocracy, I'd rather prove my innocence to just about anyone except US "Homeland Security".
  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @09:57AM (#29626407)

    I'm grateful for the men and women who patrol our borders. If this report is true, their hard work has kept us safe from another potential disaster: Having to endure 7 years of unrelenting hype, having to witness multiple late and overbudget Stalinesque construction projects, all capped off by an orgy of hypocritical corporate-sponsored "amateur" contests and overblown nationalism. Good job!

  • by atlmatt36 ( 1638631 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:06AM (#29626501)
    Really, is it all that ironic that the IOC would consider our immigration and the recent crime statistics as reasons to not come here over RIO ? For me at least, I can see their point on a few issues :

    1) The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate when measured against citizen head count to incarcerated or otherwise restricted status citizenry (Parole/Probation) of ANY country in the world.

    2) A convicted U.S. felon can still travel internationally to other countries, yet the U.S. refuses to consider allowing another country's citizens to arrive here for what constitutes a misdemeanor or less, regardless of time passed

    3) Getting back into the country as a citzen or "worse" GC or other status holder is worse than painful if singled out for secondary. I am non-white and get profiled every time I come back, despite having served and having no "reasons" to be flagged other than my last name which is clearly non-american originated.

    4) While requiring a VISA or fingerprinting itself is not counter-intuitive to travel, the manner and inconsistency is. Having said that, for being touted as "the land of the free" and "a shining beacon of democracy" is ironic itself when our policies at the border (or even non-border with the TSA and Border Agents) clearly indicate that we are profiling even inside our borders. How do you explain roving road blocks for "immigration" checks just because you happen to be on a road within 100 miles of a border....

    5) To host in Chicago, we'd be doing the same things we did in Atlanta. We'd be buying the homeless once again a 1-way ticket to nowhere (or anywhere but "here"), we'd be tearing down projects and displacing people/families to make way for the Olympic Village, and you can be damn sure that the average "Chicagoan" (sp?) would not be able to even get into the venues, much less afford the cost of the tickets being hosted in their own city. This happened in Atlanta where I live in 1996....

    6) We just had the summit in Pittsburgh that was shameful in the way it's citizenry were treated as well as most of the peaceful demonstrators. Beatings, the use of a sound cannon and extensive use of tear gas, etc had me thinking initially this was some other country where liberty and democracy/freedom of speech was supressed.... Turns out I was right, but had the wrong country in mind, which was depressing and downright scary

    The list could go on with examples, but it would be unfair to clutter the Slashdot database with further examples that are easily googled.
    I do love my country and the people in it for the most part, but I'd be lying if I said I believed 95% of the hype that our Tourism Board spews out to attract visitors. I think the loss of tourism and downturn in visitors since we enacted the failed Patriot Act speaks volumes, the rest of the tidbits I shared just add further fuel to the reasons why those who would like to see us (the U.S.) just stay the hell away.
    Suffice it to say in my opinion that on the one hand we have U.S. which has clearly become a very dim shadow of itself and the other hand we're trying to portray ourselves, or at least that's my impression as a U.S. Citizen.....

  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:07AM (#29626513) Homepage Journal
    As a visitor entering Japan, you are subject to being fingerprinted and having your picture taken at border control as well as a bunch of harassing questions such as, "Where are you staying and who are you staying with?"(I always make up a fake address). I don't know how much different it is compared to the US, but if they rejected Chicago because of these restrictions, they probably rejected Tokyo for a lot of the same reasons.
    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:59AM (#29626957)

      No, of course not! It is only evil when the US does it! Other countries are perfectly justified in doing it, the US is the only bad guy.

      I'm quite sure the border control was a very small issue especially since such a thing could be laxened specifically for the Olympics (China did) and likely would be since the president was keen on having them.

      No my guess is the most important consideration was that South America has never had an Olympic games. That gives them a leg up on getting them, presuming they are ready to host them. The Olympics is, after all, an INTERNATIONAL competition. Seems only fair that it should get hosted everywhere in the world then, no region that is capable of hosting it (it does take a certain amount of infrastructure) should be excluded. The US has gotten the Olympics more than any other country I'm aware of, so it seems reasonable to give others a chance.

      There's also the matter of location. Chicago seems like a pretty shitty place to host the summer Olympics just climate wise. Not really one of the top summer destination spots in my book. Rio is a MUCH nicer location. Let's face it, the Olympics being a big tourist event, that sort of thing matters.

      While the issue of border control may have been discussed, I doubt it was any serious consideration. Like I said, you've got the president pushing for it. If they go and say "Well ok, we'll give it to Chicago, but you have to do away with the fingerprinting and such for the people coming to see it," the president will say "No problem."

      This is just people trying to twist things to push their agenda of getting rid of the new border controls. Now don't get me wrong, the new border controls are BS and should be done away with. However, trying to make up bullshit reasons makes you no better than the people who made up bullshit reasons to justify them int he first place.

    • by dimension6 ( 558538 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @01:50PM (#29628391)
      Really? I've been living in Japan for two years now (I'm a US citizen), and I absolutely dread going back to the States. Arriving in the US feels like a madhouse by comparison. As a Japanese multiple-exit visa holder (most long-term residents have this), I have a separate line at immigration that usually has no line. There is the fingerprinting and photo (which was a point of contention with the American Chamber of Commerce, I remember), but I've never been asked any background questions on any of my 10+ entries into the country. The entire process takes no more than 5 minutes as opposed to the hour-plus ordeal that I face at any US international entry point. You don't have to remove your shoes, and at least for domestic flights, it's no problem to bring a bottle of liquid (tea, etc.) right through security).
  • The Sad Thing... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IonOtter ( 629215 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:09AM (#29626531) Homepage that the Republicans-and probably more than a few Democrats-are going to blame Obama and his administration for something THEY ruined.

  • Probably not (Score:4, Insightful)

    by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:12AM (#29626561) Homepage

    Unless something's changed in the past two years, this probably didn't have a huge effect, given that the next two games following Vancouver are going to be held in London and Moscow respectively. Neither the UK nor Russia have a reputation of being particularly welcoming to travelers.

    Although not as bad as the US, border security in the UK is by far the most invasive in the EU, opting to screen people arriving from within other parts of the EU. Back when I used to hold a multiple-entry visa to the UK, it was treated as a point of suspicion every time I crossed the border (despite the fact that I had to provide the consulate with every shred of information about my private life in order to get the visa). This policy is completely and entirely illogical -- odds are that the border agencies knew more about me than they do about their own citizens.

    On the other hand, Russia takes the cake for bizarre and restrictive immigration procedures. The US state department's page describes [] these in detail, as there are far too many peculiarities and specifics to list here.

    If this was an issue, I seriously doubt that the UK or Russia would have been selected by the IOC. As it stands, Chicago didn't lose by that many votes, and the IOC's voting rules and distribution of membership are hardly fair []. An IRV system is definitely needed to prevent the sort of gamesmanship that likely caused Chicago to lose, and somehow made Tokyo lose votes in the second round.

    That all said, Rio will be a fantastic host for the games. This will be the first time ever that the Olympics have been held on the South American continent, which is a pretty cool milestone all in itself. I'm fairly confident that the US will be first in line for 2018.

  • yes, probably (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jipn4 ( 1367823 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:16AM (#29626607)

    I've organized some international events, and US border control policies and visa requirements are a big argument against holding them in the US.

    Border control in Europe is very simple in my experience; people check whether your passport is on a list, and if it's not, they just wave you through. No fingerprinting, photographs, long lines, tricky questions, pre-registration, or interrogation booths. And despite that, Europe seems to have been doing no worse on terrorism or illegal immigration than the US.

  • by evilned ( 146392 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:20AM (#29626637) Homepage

    My wife has permanent residency here in the US and I am a citizen . We used to be able to go through border control together and she was treated quite well. Now, she has to be fingerprinted (the fact that her fingerprints are already on file with immigration, has been through the interview process for permanent residency seem to make no difference).

    I have permanent residency in her country, Singapore, as well. When we enter or exit Singapore, its quick and easy. Even before I had PR status, it was easier to get in and out of the country as a tourist than it was to get in and out of the US as a citizen. Land of the Free, my ass.

  • They are concerned about what US Customs would do to foreigners, they should look at what they do to citizens. I was born and raised in the states, and still live in a state near a border. I recently crossed back into the states (by car) after 5 days in a neighboring country. I pulled up to customs and had to turn off my car and hand my keys to a leather-gloved customs officer so he could search my trunk, while I stayed in my car. I was not allowed to see what he was doing; he could have easily taken items from my trunk or placed items in my trunk without my knowing it. Eventually they cleared me but offered no explanation for what they were doing.

    I have had similar experiences in the past as well, I once had to pull from the customs booth to the "additional screening" building (single car garage with doors on both ends) where I had to empty my trunk for a customs agent.

    So I can't say I'm surprised if the security theater here was a deciding factor against having another Olympics here. Certainly our procedures have changed a fair bit since 1996.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 03, 2009 @10:57AM (#29626941)

    Once on a flight from Australia to Canada, my plane stopped to refuel at Hawaii airport.

    When we were about an hour out approaching Hawaii, the flight attendants came around with US immigration cards for us to fill out. I was completely baffled and started to get seriously worried that I was on the wrong flight or some shit. I said to the attendant "But, we're going to Vancouver, right?". She replied "Yes, I'm sorry, everyone has to fill out a US immigration card". She seemed kinda puzzled by the whole thing too.

    Not entirely put at ease, I started filling out the form, which was probably the most poorly laid-out and silliest form I've ever encountered in my life. Am I affiliated with the Nazi party? WTF is the matter with these people? I felt like I was being interrogated like a criminal suspect. Do I intend to commit acts of terrorism against the United States? Well right up until I was forced to fill out that form, I would have categorically said "no", but afterwards I have to admit my inclinations were changing in that regard.

    My favourite question was "Why do you wish to enter the United States". I wrote down the only reasonable answer under the circumstances: "I don't".

    So we all got off the plane, milled around Hawaii airport in swelteringly humid conditions for TWO HOURS, were forced to remove our shoes and finally, when it was my turn to meet the immigration official and hand in my stupid form, she looked at my answers, scowled at me and said "What does this mean, 'I don't'?".

    I'm totally fucking serious. That's what she said.

    I replied "It means just what it says. I don't wish to enter the United States."

    She said, I shit you not, "Well why are you here then?".

    Wow. Just ... wow. Here is a person whose job it is to enforce immigration policy and she doesn't even know that they force transit passengers who are not bound for the US to go through immigration? I feel an intense fury at the level of stupidity on display, but I clench my teeth and force myself to stay calm. After all, I don't want to get on the wrong side of this person/vegetable and get a finger stuck up my ass for my trouble.

    After thinking for a moment about how I can explain the situation to a person of such ... limited mental faculty, I say "I'm going to Vancouver. My plane is refuelling here and apparently that means we have to go through US immigration?"

    She levelling her blank stare at me for a few seconds, then shuffled some papers around while I stood there wondering what the hell kind of Twilight Zone bullshit I'd just wandered into. Then she stamped my passport, stapled the stupid form to it, muttered something at me and let me through. I had successfully visited the United States! Absent any consent or intention to do so! After all, it's not like travellers actually know which countries they want to go to. Better decide these things for them.

    I then got back on my plane, sat in the exact same seat I had occupied two hours earlier, and we made our way to Vancouver.

    When we arrived at Vancouver airport, a nice man in a suit asked me if I was a Canadian resident. I said "no" and with a polite "this way please sir" he directed me to the non-residents line. After waiting in the queue for about 5 minutes, the guy at the desk said "Oh you're from Australia. What brings you to Canada?" I said "Just here on holiday.". He asked "Gonna do any skiing while you're here?". I said "Maybe." He said "Cool.", stamped my passport and in I went.

    Let's look at the contrast here. Canada treated me like a welcome visitor and the process was efficient and friendly. The US forced me to enter their country against my will whilst demanding that I explain why I was entering their country, and expected me to be grateful for the whole experience.

    So in conclusion, I refuse to visit the US as long as this idiotic attitude prevails, and I think the IOC has made an eminently sensible choice regarding the 2016 Olympic Games.

  • by Entropius ( 188861 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @11:04AM (#29627005)

    I'm a US citizen who recently went to China for a scientific conference. China has a reputation, no doubt well deserved, as a police state. But in terms of ridiculous airport security and immigration control, it's nowhere *near* as bad as the Americans. The Chinese are bureaucratic as all hell with their regs, but they're at least friendly about it.

    When I got my passport checked back in the US, the fellow looks at my passport, notices the Chinese visa, and says "Welcome home" in this smug tone, as if to say "Aren't you glad you're back in the Land O' Freedom?"

  • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @12:29PM (#29627739) Homepage

    "International travel to the U.S. declined by 10 percent in the first quarter of 2009 according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. To lure visitors back, U.S. Travel has been pushing the Travel Promotion Act, which recently was passed in the Senate and is awaiting action in the House, to create a campaign to strengthen the image of the United States abroad."

    The US has just announced a $10 fee that any visitor to the US must pay to enter the country. This is to be used to fund an internation publicity campaign. Putting two-and-two together, I assume this is the campaign that the fee is going to.

    Draw footgun, fire!

  • by codegen ( 103601 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @01:17PM (#29628115) Journal
    It is not just the olympics. International scientific conferences are tending to shy away from the US as well. I'm involved in the organization of three computer science conferences that traditionally alternate between North America and Europe. The North American Slots are ending up in Canada because it is to much of a hassle for the European participants to enter the US. I was at one conference in the US several years ago, and several of us were in the security lineup to leave the country, and one of my colleagues remarked to me, that "it just isn't worth the hassle anymore". Throw in the drama that happens if you happen to take a picture in public (omg a picture of a library [] or a hotel []), and you have to wonder why anyone would visit the USA.
    • by cgomezr ( 1074699 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @02:47PM (#29628821)

      I go to 3-4 computer science conferences a year. Last year, I went to one in the US. At the customs, I got singled out for no reason and taken into a room with other 50-60 people. I had to wait for a long time while a bully guard was saying that we were not American citizens so they had the right to search our luggage and retain us for as long as necessary (no one had asked him anything, he was just saying it out of sheer pleasure, it seems). They interrogated me and didn't want to tell me why I was taken there. They wouldn't let us use our mobile phones. I spent like 3 hours there until they let me go, fortunately I was able to catch my connecting flight (to a different US city) in the last minute (since I had been told that if I missed it due to the interrogation no one would pay anything, since it was "for security".

      After the experience, I decided not to go to the US anymore unless it is strictly necessary. This year I have not submitted papers to any conference taking place in the US, and I don't plan to do so in the future, unless I have a coauthor willing to go. Sorry guys, it's not that I don't like your country, in fact everyone was really nice to me once I was *inside* the US. But being treated like a piece of sh*t at the customs without even being given a reason is not a nice experience. Perhaps if you haven't gone through it you may think that it's just a minor nuisance, but it really gets to your nerves being there, waiting, unable to do anything, surrounded by heavily armed guards as if you were a criminal, receiving no explanation whatsoever for your situation, and getting nervous as the time for your next flight is approaching and they don't let you go. Even if the country is nice, it's just not worth it.

      So yes, I'm sure these kinds of border controls harm tourism. I don't want to go to the US while the situation is like that, and I'm aware of more people of the same opinion.

      PS: I have been to like 20 or 30 countries, including poor and rich countries, and I haven't been treated so badly in any other place, only in the US customs.

  • by jotaeleemeese ( 303437 ) on Saturday October 03, 2009 @02:50PM (#29628843) Homepage Journal

    The Olympic games in Atlanta are generally cited as some of the worst in all history.

    The over commercialism, failure of public transport (including athletes and officials being delayed for their competitions) and plain going around IOC's commercial interests left the IOC very hurt (and Samaranch, the IOC's President at the time, was in Copenhagen to remind everybody of that when promoting Nadrid's bid).

    As for Salt Lake City winter Olympics, there was a corruption scandal, that led to a wide reform in the IOC.

    Add to that the asinine US immigration policies, a very capable bid from Rio de Janeiro (including Brazil's President spending lots of time promoting Brazil's bid) and the result is not so surprising.

    What baffles me is how meretricious so many people in the US are in regards to President Obama trying to help with Chicago's bid, all the other countries sent their heads of government (and in the case of Spain, also the head of state) to help with the bid, 4 years ago Tony Blair, former UK's Prime Minister, was widely credited with having helped with London's bid. That so many US people are blaming President Obama for Chicago's failure just show how pathological politics have become in the US....

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!