Chicago won’t host the Olympics – Is the TSA to blame?

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Did Chicago lose the chance to host the 2016 Olympics because of airport security issues?

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.”

That’s putting it politely.

Mr. Obama’s assurances may have not been enough to assuage critics like Mr. Ali. A few hours later the Games went to Rio de Janiero.

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. Once the news came out that Chicago lost its Olympic bid, the U.S. Travel Association didn’t miss an opportunity to point that out, sending out a critical press release within hours.

“It’s clear the United States still has a lot of work to do to restore its place as a premier travel destination,” Roger Dow, U.S. Travel’s president, said in the statement released today. “When IOC members are commenting to our President that foreign visitors find traveling to the United States a ‘pretty harrowing experience,’ we need to take seriously the challenge of reforming our entry process to ensure there is a welcome mat to our friends around the world, even as we ensure a secure system.”

The blogosphere is filled daily with predictable examples of innocent people being harassed at some port of entry. Yet, GAO inspectors move imitation bombs through our airports whenever they feel like it.

The disaster called TSA runs the gamut from underpaid, underqualified and incompetent to poorly trained. They are there to satisfy a paranoia which has lasted among politicians much longer than the populace in general. Real security systems needn’t be run like the Toonerville Trolley.

Thanks, Uncle Dave