Daley goes to China for Olympics

August 1, 2008 10:24:36 AM PDT
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley will be looking at traffic, transit and transformation next week when he heads to Beijing, China to see how that city hosts the Olympics. It will also be an important opportunity for the mayor to talk up Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Mayor Daley has attended the Olympics once before -- Atlanta in 1996. This will be his fourth trip to China, but certainly his most important visit as far as Chicago's Olympic bid is concerned.

Just two years ago, Mayor Daley saw a much different Beijing. Venues were still growing from the ground. A seemingly endless army of workers were building what will be the iconic stadiums of these Games.

"When you read about it, see pictures, I mean it's changed dramatically. It's already -- you go to Shanghai, Beijing -- the movement the change is happening so quickly, communities are built up within a year," Daley said.

The mayor will see sparkling new venues, including an Olympic stadium dubbed "The Bird's Nest," plus new neighborhoods and subway lines.

But he will also see a city fighting pollution that threatens to cancel some events and a government unaccustomed to the prying eyes of thousands of journalists and the international community.

Daley says he welcomes that type on intense attention. "Free publicity," he calls it. It's one of the reasons he hopes to bring the Olympics to Chicago in 2016.

"Barcelona was one of the cities, that really has changed the city because the Olympics came, they changed everything in the city and now it's become a global, international city, it's amazing, just because of that one event," Daley said.

There is one aspect to the Beijing Games Mayor Daley promises not to repeat in Chicago, and that is the urge to build everything from scratch.

"If you go, unfortunately, to Sydney or Athens, they don't use those facilities. They're called white elephants, like the World's Fair or the Columbian Exposition, most of those were torn down afterwards because you can't use them," Daley said.

Last summer, Daley attended the Pan-American Games in Rio de Janaeiro -- a 2016 competitor. The trip provided an important opportunity for the mayor to meet members of the International Olympic Committee. It's a chance he'll have again in China.

Mayor Daley will lead a delegation of more than a dozen people to looking to learn in China. The tab is being covered by all those donations to Chicago's Olympic committee.


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