Now that Spain has disgraced itself in Beijing over that slap-happy picture of the basketball team, it doesn’t look as if anybody’s going to be awarded the 2016 Olympics. Up until now I believed Madrid had the inside track– because the ’92 games in Barcelona were such a success and because every other entry is so flawed. But who would want to give the games to such a PC-deficient people! What is Spain anyway — a nation of Ben Stillers? Their cagers weren’t even smart enough to claim they were trying to make a statement about Tibet. 

If only Franco were alive! The International Olympic Committee cuts authoritarian regimes slack because it knows the venues will be built on time and because it can tell itself the experience of hosting the world will hasten the democratizing process. Look at how untroubled everyone is by China’s shameless deceptions — the opening ceremony was faked, the TV coverage was faked, gymnasts’ ages were faked, even Beijing itself was faked. But what of it? The Chinese are only a generation removed from one of history’s bloodiest tyrannies. They’re finding their way.

But Spain’s already been democratized, and when democracies misbehave the people take the rap.

If not Madrid, who gets the Olympics? Tokyo: been there, done that (1964). And their heart’s not in it. Rio: Brazil has to host the 2014 World Cup — how much can they bite off? And let us not overlook Rio’s colorful but vicious criminal element.

So is it Chicago by default? Hardly. Chicago’s possibly fatal flaw, I’m coming to realize, isn’t our crumbling rapid transit. It’s our government. The IOC, which has just watched Mayor Daley scurry around Beijing asking a million curious questions, will ask itself this: If Daley’s no longer mayor in 2016, then what? It’s a reasonable question, and there’s no good answer. When the first Mayor Daley died in 1976, chaos followed. Three years later Mayor Jane Byrne was elected, and on her watch Chicago bid for and won the right to hold a world’s fair in 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage to the new world. It would have been huge! But the alliance between City Hall and the city’s business elite didn’t survive a change of mayors. Byrne was defeated in 1983 by Harold Washington, again chaos followed, and Chicago’s world’s fair project collapsed.

What Mayor Daley should have found out from the Chinese was how to run a stable autocracy.