Did U.S. Lose Olympics Because We’re Unwelcoming?

The suggestion has been raised, by Arthur Frommer and The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan, among others, that Chicago lost its bid to host the 2016 Olympics at least in part because the United States is unfriendly to foreign visitors.

As I’ve mentioned before, the foreign press is full of horror stories from travelers who say they’ve been mistreated at our borders and in our airports. The response, at least in the U.S. Senate, has been to approve a $10 visitor tax to promote tourism. Not a dime would go toward addressing visitors’ concerns.

Last time I returned to the United States, at JFK, the line for non-citizens to clear immigration was exponentially longer than the very long line for U.S. citizens. This is counter-intuitive, since non-citizens are likely to be questioned more, and so their line will move more slowly.

I’ve never seen this kind of inequity in the European Union, though I once had to wait an hour to clear immigration at the Mexico City airport. It was a long, uncomfortable wait. But visitors to the United States often have to wait many hours longer than that.

Well, now it’s our turn to suffer because any of us who want to go to the Olympics will have to clear immigration in BrazilĀ — where, as Andrew Sullivan reminds us, there is a reciprocal visa policy. Brazilians have to pay $130 a person to get into the United States, so prepare to pay $130 to get into Brazil for the Rio Olympics.

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