Chicago may have lost its Olympic bid due to the insane fingerprints-and-photos regime at the US border: the Chicago bid team was questioned by an IOC member who called the US border “a rather harrowing experience.” I’ve actually found the O’Hare border procedure pretty painless, but God help the foreigner who lands in Texas. At DFW, I was told by a border guard that I wasn’t allowed to listen to headphones in the (two-hour-long) line; at Houston, we once stood in line for three hours just to change planes between Honduras and the UK.
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…””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.”