CHICAGO -- When Atlanta won the right to hold the 1996 Olympics, it was like finding out that the unremarkable kid from Mrs. Smith's fifth-grade class - the kid whose only talent seemed to be belching his name - had gone on to own a Fortune 500 company.
It still boggles the mind that the world came to Atlanta's doorstep without ringing the bell and running away. But there is the more relevant thought that if Atlanta was able to beat out some world-class cities to win the 1996 Games, then Chicago should have no problem giving a beat-down to the likes of Tokyo and Rome for the 2016 Olympics.
"Atlanta - are you kidding me?" wouldn't seem to be the most dynamic rallying cry, but it's a start.
I have no idea how the International Olympic Committee chooses its bid winners. The Byzantine process used to involve cash, baubles and other payola, which Chicago would have known how to follow very well. Alas, that's no longer the way Olympics business is done, it is said, although it's still possible to see the occasional IOC member dressed like one of the Gabor sisters, thanks to the excesses of Games past.
If you see an Olympics voter wearing a brand-new, diamond-studded Streets & Sanitation Department reflector vest, you'll know something is amiss.
We're new to this, and the IOC might not know us very well. We'll have to explain to voting members that we haven't any more idea of what the Picasso sculpture is supposed to be saying to us than we do of what Mayor Richard Daley is saying to us half the time. We'll have to explain to them that we embrace the Olympics ideals of peace and brotherhood while hoping they don't ask about all the White Sox-Cubs bloodshed over the years.
It was big news here Saturday when Chicago beat out Los Angeles for the right to represent the United States in the international bid process. Aside from the fact that everybody in the world hates the United States' guts, I'd say we're in. Chicago is an international city. Walk down Michigan Avenue and you'll see it and hear it firsthand.
It all sounds so lovely, doesn't it? All this talk about global goodwill? But doesn't somebody have to do the dirty political-operative work regarding our opponents? Don't we have to find out if the chairman of the Baku, Azerbaijan, bid has an unsavory past?
No, we're told.
Analysts admired the way Daley and Chicago bid chairman Patrick Ryan stayed away from criticizing Los Angeles during the U.S. competition.
"Both men have taken the high ground on the bid," Allen Sanderson, a University of Chicago sports economist, told the Chicago Tribune. "We haven't trashed L.A., nor do I think we'd trash Rio or Tokyo or Madrid. I give them high marks for trying to extol our virtues."
Of course, we're above putting down our competition, just as we were when we were competing against Los Angeles, which, as we all know, won't be around in 2016 because of the impending Big One.
Here's a brief look at Chicago's possible competition:
The Colosseum. The Roman Forum. Circus Maximus. The place is in ruins.
Prague, Czech Republic.
I have to be very, very careful here because my mother-in-law is Bohemian, but if the cuisine of a country is built around the humble dumpling, should it get an Olympics? I'm just asking.
Anybody else notice that Qatar is right across the Persian Gulf from Iran?
Anybody else notice that Iran sits on this country's southern border? Again, just asking.
We just swallowed Los Angeles like a California roll, so what would we do with Tokyo? Make it feel like it just ate some bad blowfish.
St. Petersburg, Russia.
One of its sister cities in the United States is Los Angeles. The other, for some reason, is Lansing, Mich.
In July and August, the temperature often tops 100. The good news is that housing won't be a problem; citizens often leave town to escape the heat. Anybody up for an Olympic marathon?
Rio de Janeiro.
I'm still working on why this one is a bad idea. Bikini wax issues?
Rick Morrissey writes for the Chicago Tribune.