As I walked through Chicago’s O’Hare Airport yesterday, there was a more somber mood than usual. For several months, anywhere you went in Chicago, you heard recorded endorsements from various stars on why Chicago would be the ideal location for the 2016 Olympics. Yesterday there was only muzak, boarding announcements, and security advisements. I admit, as much as I love Rio, I had hoped to see the Olympics come “across the lake” from me to the Windy City!
It seemed like the perfect location. But Associated Press reporter, Nancy Armour, suggests this might in part be a backlash globally against any number of things “American.” Armour’s perspective aligns with what I’ve been seeing on a number of fronts internationally. See her article here.
For several years, there was a sense that a leader from the U.S. could be welcomed anywhere in the world with our services, products, and ideas. But in recent years, there’s been a change of attitudes toward the U.S. and what it means to work with us. Last week in Singapore I talked with a business man who continues to watch competent American business people lose out on deals to European and Asian competitors simply because they’re “American”. Even if you’re the most culturally intelligent, sensitive American leader, the long-term swaggering stride of many Americans ahead of you can make for an uphill trek when trying to negotiate a deal.
As we posture ourselves with a spirit of openness, collaboration and even compromise, we may regain a reputation for being a nation known for innovation as well as a place where people from any country, culture or background can converge and work together. And that starts with each of us, one by one making those attempts.
Perhaps it starts with cheering on our Brazilian neighbors for being the first host of the Olympics in South America.