City hosts Olympics rally, Obama attends

June 6, 2008 4:33:02 PM PDT
Hundreds of people gathered at Daley Plaza Friday to celebrate Chicago landing in the 'Final Four' for the 2016 Olympic Games.Those attending the rally got quite a surprise: a guest appearance by the man who could become the nation's first African-American president, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is widely credited with stealing the 2012 Games away from Paris by sheer force of personality and time. Blair schmoozed International Olympic Committee (IOC) members hard, and travelled far, and it paid off. Senator Obama returned home to Chicago Friday and vowed to bring his winning touch to the city's Olympic bid during Friday's rally. He also promised to work hard for his hometown, if elected.

"Bringing the Olympics to Chicago will be a capstone of the success that we've had over last couple of decades in transforming Chicago into not just a great American city, but a great world city. Not just a city that works, but a city that inspires," the Democratic presidential candidate said.

"This city is all about change. We want to the Olympians and Paralympians to come here and see our great city and see the great country of United States of America," Mayor Daley said.

Obama was a last-minute addition to the program, but should he become president, he could leave a long-lasting impression with IOC members. Republican rival Sen. John McCain is viewed poorly by some in the Olympic movement who were miffed by his aggressive Senate probes into the bribery scandal involving the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Senator Obama's Hyde Park home is just a stone's throw from the proposed Olympic Stadium in Washington Park.

"In 2016, I'll be wrapping up my second term as president! So, I can't think of a better way to be marching into Washington Park than alongside Mayor Daley!" Obama said.

The Mayor and his Olympic bid team plan on using Obama's stature and celebrity in the international phase of the campaign. Friday, the presidential candidate helped unveil a revamped Chicago logo that can now includes the Olympic rings.

But both Obama and Daley declined to take questions about what Chicago must do and spend to address concerns raised by the Olympic Committee.

"I think that just like any Olympic hopeful, you have to get yourself in the best shape possible for the trial day to make that Olympic team," former Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee told ABC7 Chicago.

Chicago has until February to revise its plan and resubmit its formal bid documents addressing concerns about everything from mass transit to funding sources and government support.

The Final Four Cities: Where they stand with the IOC

The 'Final Four' phase in the decision process is expected to last 16 months.

Each of the final four cities has strengths and weaknesses, and each of them, including Chicago, will have to spend the next 16 months working to resolve concerns raised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

IOC evaluators said one of the quality's that makes Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the only remaining Olympic candidate city that fared worse than Chicago, such an attractive city is its spectacular topography. But, that is also a huge hindrance. Mountains and valleys create constant traffic jams, and Rio does not have a significant mass transit system, specifically rail lines, to move around millions of Olympic visitors. The local airport also is not large enough.

But IOC pollsters found 77 percent of Rio residents support bringing the Games to their city.

For Chicago, polling found 74 percent of people who live in the region support the city's Olympic bid.

Mass transit and cost appear to be the IOC biggest concerns about Chicago. The committee is also concerned about a lack of experience hosting international sporting events.

"We just got the report . [We are going to] thoroughly evaluate with our staff and others and take into consideration their evaluation and be able to correct things," Mayor Daley said Wednesday.

The IOC loved Tokyo's plan for a central-city Games, with some events taking place on the grounds of the Imperial Palace. No additional mass transit projects would be needed, but only 59 percent of Tokyo residents told pollsters they want the Games played in their Japanese town.

Madrid, Spain enjoys 90 percent support for its Olympic bid among residents. The IOC likes its high-capacity mass transit system and environmental initiatives, but said security could be a concern.

Rio, Tokyo and Madrid each have more experience in the Olympic movement than does Chicago in meeting, greeting and earning the trust of the 110 IOC members who will ultimately decide which city gets the Games.

But, Chicago's 'ace in the hole,' some say, could be Illinois' freshman senator, Barack Obama, who could become president of the United States.

The real work for Chicago's Olympic bid team begins now behind the scenes, and so do the tough decisions about how far will Chicago go, and how much it will spend, to address IOC concerns.


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