2008 U.S. Summer Olympic team in Chicago

April 14, 2008 5:49:51 PM PDT
One-hundred-thirty members of the United States Olympic Team were in Chicago Monday looking ahead to this summer's competition in Beijing. They were being interviewed by more than 400 national and international journalists in town for the Olympic media summit.

Mayor Daley and others are hoping the gathering will also build some buzz for the city's 2016 Olympic bid.

International Olympic Committee members met last week in Beijing. Monday we learned some of their concerns about Chicago's bid. They include: some lack of familiarity with the city, concerns about the ease of obtaining visas and on-going revenue sharing dispute between the U.S. and International Olympic committees. Those are the issues being worked on behind the scenes. But Chicago is positioning itself as the U.S. launching pad for the Beijing games.

Olympic swimming gold medalist Michael Phelps was by far the biggest draw in Chicago Monday. But whether they are swimmers or fencers, archers or those competing in judo, all say they go to the Games with only one mission in mind.

"They're concerned with one thing: That's competing to win the gold medal," said Joe Williams, wrestler.

Mt. Carmel alum and Blue Island native Joe Williams wrestled in the 2004 Athens Games. He says Chicago has the right idea -- proposing an athlete's village with private beach and lake access close to the heart of downtown. Olympic reporters are getting a taste of that plan this week. But their attention is first and foremost focused on Beijing.

A Chinese journalist questioned American athletes about the demonstrations that have dogged the Olympic torch run in the build-up to Beijing. The Americans are mindful to stay on message... as are the Chinese.

"I think most of them are kind of disappointed at the disturbances of the torch relay," said Xiao Lan, Chinese TV correspondent.

Mayor Richard Daley opened the media summit Monday morning. He'll spend parts of two days on hand hoping positive press about the city will reach members of the International Olympic Committee.

All 2016 cities learned in recent days they will get an extra chance to present their city's plan to the IOC in Switzerland. But Daley says the fact so few voting IOC members will actually be allowed to visit Chicago could pose a problem.

"When someone flies in, gets in a cab or car, goes to hotel, goes to retail, they get a feel for the city because it really is its people," said Mayor Daley.

"I think it is a disadvantage that they can't come here and see the city and its amenities personally, so it'll be up to the bid to transmit that in the campaign," said Jim Scherr, CEO U.S. Olympic Committee.

Chicago still has to wait until October, 2009, before the winning city is selected.


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