Chicagoans in favor of Olympics; USOC chief says not so fast

April 16, 2008 5:42:35 AM PDT
It's been an up-and-down day for Chicago's Olympic bid.A new local poll shows more Chicagoans support the 2016 Olympics being played here than did a year ago. But the top man at the U.S. Olympic Committee says "betting money" shouldn't be on Chicago to land the games.

U.S. Olympic Committee chairman Peter Ueberroth likes to rattle the cage a bit when he's here. A few months back he proclaimed Chicago was in fourth or fifth in the 2016 competition. On Wednesday, in his own unique way, Ueberroth seemed to say Chicago's bid has improved but is still not where it needs to be.

Ueberroth has a habit of coming to town and giving Chicagoans a reality check about the city's Olympic bid.

"You can't really give it a number, certainly not first," he said.

Ueberroth won't say which 2016 candidate cities he thinks have a better shot than Chicago, but he did offer insight into Chicago's weaknesses.

"You remember, Chicago has not bid on games in the past, they've not been in the Olympic movement. And they're gaining expertise all the time," he said. "So I think they're improving, but still not anywhere near first."

"It's an international competition. These are strong cities in the Olympic movement as well, so this is a tough competition. And so like anything else, you don't take anything for granted," said Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

"That is classic Ueberrothian strategy, sort of get everybody to dance around on the head of a pin and going, 'Oh my God, oh my God, what is wrong?' I think Chicago is doing fine," said Alan Abrahamson, Olympics writer.

Members of the International Olympic Committee met in Beijing last week. Some are telling Chicago's bid team the city needs to prove the United States will be welcoming to foreign visitors and athletes despite post 9-11 security. They also say Chicago has to gain more of a reputation on the worldwide Olympic scene. Events like last fall's world boxing championships and this week's US Olympic Team Media Summit help that effort.

Also helpful: A new local opinion survey released by Chicago 2016 finds 84 percent of Chicagoans say they support the Olympics coming to town; 12 percent oppose it. The challenge for Chicago 2016 chairman Pat Ryan and his team: Make the city more well known to the International Olympic Committee.

"We have to change some perceptions of people who've not been here. But that's what we're all about," said Ryan.

The decision on a 2016 host city will be made in a year and a half. All three people who hope to be president of the United States next have called for elected officials to boycot opening ceremonies. That doesn't go over well with IOC members and may hurt Chicago's bid.

Chicago's bid team was especially disappointed when Barack Obama said he supported a presidential boycott of opening ceremonies.

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