Who do you like in 2016? Tokyo’s now officially in the race for the summer games, and Mayor Daley calls Japan’s entry “very formidable.” But the same Sun-Times article cites veteran Olympics observers who say Tokyo could easily be knocked out of the running by either the 2014 winter games (should Pyeongchang, Korea, be selected–same neck of the woods) or by prohibitive building costs. Besides, Tokyo had the 1964 games.

Madrid and Prague also intend to bid, and Madrid in particular could be daunting opposition to Chicago. But the 2012 summer games will be in London, and the International Olympics Committee likes to roam the continents.

Which leaves Rio de Janiero. The closest the Olympics have come to South America was Mexico City in 1968, so the 2016 games are Rio’s to lose. But Rio wanted to show itself off by staging the Pan American Games next month, and it’s reported that preparations haven’t gone well.  Construction’s behind schedule, costs have exceeded estimates, and crime in the streets is out of control. Brazil’s a good bet to host the 2014 World Cup, which might make it easier for the International Olympic Committee to send the 2016 games somewhere else.

So will it be Chicago by default? Well, here’s something to think about. The IOC has a weakness for amenities, especially ones that help visitors move around in dignity. Athens expanded its subway for the 2004 Olympics. Prague already has a subway-tram-bus network that puts Chicago’s to shame. Madrid has been pouring unimaginable money into its Metro system for 30 years. Rio’s subway is much more modern than ours. Here in Chicago the CTA is warning us that a massive cut in services is on the way. If it comes, 2016 in Chicago may be just another year.