Monday, April 16, 2007

Chicago takes that first big step towards hosting the 2016 Olympic Games

On Friday January 26 confidently predicted the City of Chicago would be selected by the United States Olympic Committee as the candidate city to represent the United States of America in bidding for the 2016 Summer Games. Some Olympic pundits may have been surprised but the chance to host the 2016 Games was always Chicago’s to lose, ahead of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston and Tampa from day one. The USOC’s selection process began with the five cities bidding and the USOC selecting Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco as three finalists. After the San Francisco 49’ers announced they were no longer interested in building a new stadium in San Francisco, San Francisco ended their bid leaving the USOC with Chicago and Los Angeles.

“On behalf of the United States Olympic Committee, we would like to congratulate Chicago on its selection as our Applicant City,” said USOC Chairman of the Board, Peter Ueberroth. “Our ultimate goal at the outset was to identify the U.S. city with the best chance of competing internationally. In Chicago and Los Angeles, we had two outstanding bids and we are confident that Chicago is positioned to be competitive in the international field and will make our country proud.”

Chicago will now be formally nominated by the USOC to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a candidate for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The international campaign will last two years, concluding in October 2009 at the IOC Session in Copenhagen, Denmark, when the 2016 Host City is selected.

“This is an opportunity to really educate all of America and the world about what the Olympic Movement brings not only to your city, not only to your country, but also to the world,” said Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. “It is a spirit in which people will come together to compete on a level playing field, and it really recognizes the best of humanity.”

“It is truly a great honor to partner with the U.S. Olympic Committee and work to bring back the Games to the United States,” said Patrick Ryan, Chairman and CEO of the Chicago 2016 Exploratory Committee. “This is a wonderful and very important thing for our city and certainly for our country. It’s great to have a partner like the U.S. Olympic Committee, and together we can work successfully.”

“The international competition will be one of the toughest competitions ever,” said USOC Vice President, International, Bob Ctvrtlik. “We’re just getting into the starting blocks, and we will work very closely with the city of Chicago, brining together all of the resources that the United States Olympic Committee has, all of the relationships the United States Olympic Committee has formed over the years – it will be a true partnership.”

“We are looking forward to going into this international phase with a very strong partnership with Chicago,” said USOC Chief Executive Officer, Jim Scherr. “This contest is ultimately not about the economics, it’s not about a surplus, it’s about the magic that can be created through the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and how that by itself can transform the city, can transform the nation, can transform the world. We look forward to try to earn that prize, the right to host the greatest sporting event in the world, the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid continues to be spearheaded by Mayor Richard Daley the son of the late Richard Daley. Daley’s father was the driving force behind national Democratic parties and at the center of the 1968 Democratic Convention which was held in Chicago, and many believe led to the protest movement that helped Richard Nixon’s 1968 Presidential election. The current Mayor Daley grew up at the foot of one of America’s craftiest politicians in the 21st century. Daley knows how the game is played and he knows how to play the game to win.

A great example of how the game is played -- Daley was officially welcomed in Beijing by the government of the People's Republic of China during the week of May 15, 2006, when the mayor discussed Chicago's venture; he is the only mayor of an American city vying for the 2016 Summer Olympics to have been welcomed to Beijing on official Olympic business. When Daley visited the host city for the 2008 Games there were five American cities interested in hosting the 2016 Games. The USOC eliminated Houston and Philadelphia from the process and San Francisco withdrew after the collapse of the 49’ers stadium plans, leaving Chicago and Los Angeles.

"This would very much be a capstone to Daley's administration," Chicago historian Perry Duis said. "It may be the first item in biographical sketches. In other words, 'Richard M. Daley, who brought the Olympics to Chicago.' "

"His status would be greater, in the tradition of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, and the 1933 World's Fair," said political scientist and former alderman Dick Simpson. "Symbolically, it would put him in the realm of [Chicago visionary architect] Daniel Burnham and others responsible for those events."

Whether his place in Chicago history would outshine the legacy of his father, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, remains to be seen, Simpson said.

"The Greeks have a saying, 'Count no man lucky until after his death,' " Simpson said. "Too much can happen, particularly with the [City Hall] corruption cases. There are too many variables to be able to tell."

Chicago's chances for hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics are bolstered by preliminary commitments made by major corporations and wealthy Chicago philanthropists; promised participation in the planning process by community and government leaders (including the Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party, a political party usually opposed to Daley); and the enthusiasm of the citizenry.

Opinion polls conducted by local newspapers in early 2006 suggested that public support for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Chicago could be as high as 80 to 85 percent. Most importantly, the city's existing infrastructure and venue options are considerably more substantial than the offerings available in other interested cities.

Highlights of Chicago’s 2016 bid include:

A temporary stadium at Washington Park, the lynchpin for the Games, has reduced in size, while cost estimates have risen. The plan now calls for 80,000 seats, rather than 95,000, to trim costs. This is estimated to cost $316 million.

After the stadium is dismantled, another $50 million will be spent to construct a lasting amphitheater in Washington Park. The facility, for cultural and sporting events, will seat 5,000, down from the 10,000 originally planned.

The combined cost of the temporary stadium and the amphitheater, $366 million, is up from earlier estimates of $300 million to $320 million. A nationally known contractor has committed to build it for that amount, adjusted for inflation, though ultimately the project will go out for bid.

The stadium design was unveiled, showing a bowl-shape arena, with a partial roof over seating for Olympics officials and the media. An outer skin will display dramatic images of Olympic athletics, and live coverage of the events will be projected on huge screens, at Washington Park and in other city parks, including Grant Park.

The overall plan, which concentrates most venues downtown, by the lakefront or in city parks, becomes even more downtown-centric, with a decision to move the rowing competition from the South Side lakefront to Monroe Harbor. The cost of adapting the harbor is estimated at $50 million.

Six private developers have signed letters of intent to bid on construction of a $1.1 billion Olympic Village, to be erected on a platform above the truck parking lot at McCormick Place. This project, too, will go out for bid. Officials said the city is committed to seeing an Olympic Village complex, even if Chicago does not get the Games. The goal is to transform and create a new community that will be very much like the high-rise communities along North Lake Shore Drive.

Daley appeared uncomfortable with the whole notion of personal legacy according to a report in The Chicago Tribune. "It's a legacy of the city, that people have come together on behalf of the Olympic movement, average citizens, business leaders, all coming in, [saying,] 'We want to showcase what the city is about and showcase America,' " the mayor said this week. "I think that will be the legacy, not of Mayor Richard M. Daley, but the city of Chicago."

Ryan made it clear to The Chicago Tribune he is passionate about what is at stake for Chicago.

"I think what's at stake is an opportunity for Chicago to be really exposed broadly to the world for all its beauty, its charm, its attributes, its culture, its welcoming people," said Ryan, founder and executive chairman of Aon Corp., which was just named the world's largest insurance broker based on revenue. "Big international acceptance—that's at stake here."

"If you look at his tenure, he loves big projects, he loves something in the offing, to be working on, to give people a focal point," said Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th) in a Chicago Tribune report. "As much as the unions and him have been fighting, the Olympics would be one of the largest public works things going on, with housing, the stadium, transportation, and those are all union jobs. So it's an opportunity to keep Chicago working."

Clearly there are those in Chicago who share Daley’s vision of what the Olympics could represent to Chicagoans – a once in a city’s lifetime opportunity to move the city another level.

“It’s certainly as historic as that to be in the running,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, which promotes Chicago to the world.

“We hit a low point in 2000, when The Wall Street Journal said we — not even Illinois — was on the map of tech hot-spots in the country,” Msall said. “We’ve come a long way since then, and this reinforces that and says we’re not only on the map, but a big point on it.”

"It would be better if we could bring them all in; obviously we can't," Chicago 2016 Chairman Patrick Ryan said in a Chicago Tribune report. "But I think a lot of people are much more aware of Chicago than is generally known.

"There has been so much that has happened in this city in the past decade. The old feeling of urban sprawl and the reputation of the '20s and '30s, you don't hear that. People are really conscious of Chicago being a great global city."

"Should you go in and serve your apprenticeship knowing you are going to lose? There is too much money involved and too much time and psychic energy involved to just kind of rehearse knowing you can't win," Ryan said.

"I talked to the New York people [who lost to London in the 2012 bidding], some of whom had worked 11 years, only to not win. That is pretty devastating. It's not unlike somebody training for the Olympics for all those years and never achieving it."

Reaction from Los Angeles was “interesting”. After an Op-Ed piece in Saturday’s Los Angeles Times suggested Los Angeles was the logical city to choose, The Times lead sports story Sunday was on Chicago’s selection but that was it as far as coverage. And the Los Angeles Daily News suggesting they believed the USOC would pick Chicago, decided to not send anyone to the USOC meetings in Colorado Springs. The paper ran a wire copy of the USOC’s decision Sunday.

The Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games released the following statement following the USOC’s announcement: “The Los Angeles 2016 Olympic bid has been an extraordinary experience and undertaking. We would like to thank the United States Olympic Committee and congratulate our colleagues from Chicago. We are confident they will represent the United States in the International campaign with the same professionalism and the dignity they showed throughout this process.

“While we are disappointed Los Angeles will not move into the International round, we are pleased that the bid process has fostered unprecedented, bipartisan support from our civic leaders at the City, County, State and Federal levels. We are also grateful for the tremendous effort and cooperation from the business and community leaders who have driven the process and countless Southern California Olympians and Paralympians who have aided our cause. Those Olympians will continue to be integral to a legacy of this bid process, the Ready, Set, Gold! health and fitness program which will continue to operate in schools throughout the region.

“On behalf of the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games, we pledge our continued commitment to the Olympic movement and efforts to bring the Games to the United States.”

Los Angeles would have been the safer choice. Los Angeles has hosted the Games twice and while the IOC has opted for cities that haven’t hosted the Games, having their opportunity to host an Olympic Games, Los Angeles’ Olympic track record is second to none. And let’s remember Olympic Games were losing hundreds of millions of dollars leading up to the 1984 Games. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee guaranteed the 1984 Summer Games wouldn’t lose a dime and they delivered on that all important financial commitment. The 1984 Los Angeles Games made a $225 million profit.

Chicago was awarded the 1904 Games, but the Games were moved to St. Louis the host of the 1904 Worlds Fair. Chicago 2016 Chairman Pat Ryan had made it clear for several months leading to Saturday’s USOC decision in Chicago favor; one of the keys would be assuring everyone that there are no financial concerns relating to the Chicago bid will be very important, the key to the entire bid. At the end of the day it made far more sense for the USOC to choose Chicago, once Chicago made the needed financial guarantees.

For all the reasons Southern California is a great choice, Chicago is an even better pick because Chicago has never hosted an Olympic Games. If Chicago can continue to paint the perfect financial picture they did to the USOC to the International Olympic Committee, than the IOC (for many more reasons) will award the 2016 Games to Chicago.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: The Chicago Tribune

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