Chicago preps on eve of IOC visit

Groups, police ready to protest
April 1, 2009 9:00:50 PM PDT
Chicago is all aglow in Olympic spirit on Wednesday night.The skyline is all lit up in the colors of the Olympic rings, as the city puts on its best face for members of the International Olympic Committee.

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  • Mayor Daley was cheered on Wednesday night as the cover boy of Michigan Avenue magazine and biggest booster of Chicago's Olympic effort.

    But elsewhere, protestors are preparing to jeer the mayor, making signs on Wednesday night.

    A group called No Games Chicago says every city except for Los Angeles has lost money on the Olympic games.

    "Athens was in debt $8.6 billion after the games. Vancouver is on track to lose money. The majority of the Olympic games lose money," said David Pozniak, No Games Chicago.

    Cost estimates have soared in London for the 2012 Games, in part because of the recession, and taxpayers will likely be stuck with much of the bill.

    On Wednesday night, Mayor Daley promised again Chicago will be different, even though the city has pledged a $500 million guarantee.

    "A lot of times people build these huge stadiums. We're not building the facilities, they're calling them white elephants. We already have facilities built," said Daley.

    "I think anybody who's lived in the city longer than 20 minutes knows that you can't trust Mayor Daley to come through on anything he promises," said Rhoda Whitehorse, No Games Chicago.

    Opponents point to Millennium Park, which cost more than $300 million than first projected.

    But Chicago 2016 says most people ? 78 % surveyed recently -- are in favor of Chicago hosting the games and the protests should have little effect.

    "The IOC is accustomed to protestors wherever they go. People try to use leverage for something like this for the greater good of the general public," said Patrick Ryan, Chicago 2016.

    IOC to arrive in Chicago Thursday

    The signs are everywhere. Chicago must shine on Thursday as members of an International Olympic Committee inspection team visit the city. They will judge Chicago's fitness to host the 2016 summer Olympics.

    Chicago is competing with Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Madrid.

    And Mayor Daley is urging all citizens to show their enthusiasm for the city's Olympic bid by hanging posters in their windows.

    A little more than a dozen people from the International Olympic Committee arrive in town on Thursday. Their job: make a technical evaluation of Chicago's bid. They'll be judging if revenue projections are realistic, can the Olympic village be built on time and on budget?

    On Wednesday, Mayor Daley made an appeal for Chicagoans to support his effort to get the games.

    "Today, I want to address the people of Chicago," said Daley.

    Mayor Daley and his Olympic team make their case.

    "I want to make it clear to every person in Chicago that we would not have pursued the Games unless Chicago stood to greatly benefit from hosting the Games," said Daley.

    At O'Hare, huge banners of support have been unfurled. Signs supporting the bid spot the city. And at night, buildings glow in the colors of the Olympic rings.

    But some groups are intent on using the Olympic visit to push their agenda.

    Chicago 2016 and several aldermen brokered a deal with a group that promises 40% of Olympic related work will go to minority and women-owned firms. But still, they plan to protest. The reason? The full city council has yet to sign off on the deal.

    "They told us that we would have our concerns heard and that we would have a legally binding document to prove it. We don't have it," said Denise Dixon, Communities for Equitable Olympics.

    "There's no real reason for them to picket unless they just want to picket. That deal is a solid deal," said Ald. Ed Smith, 28th Ward.

    Chicago 2016 is out with a new survey of Chicagoans that shows steady support for hosting the Olympics: 78% say 'let the games begin.' A Chicago Tribune poll two months ago found 64% of people saying they support Chicago's bid.

    The latest person to join the Olympic bandwagon is Chicago's most famous athlete. He's part of a new video that'll be shown to the IOC.

    "The Olympic spirit is alive in Chicago. We're ready," said Jordan.

    Michael Jordan won't be in town to charm the IOC in the coming week. We're told he has other commitments.

    Groups plan protests

    An anti-Olympics group will march at Federal Plaza. Police plan to picket at Chicago's City Hall. And, a neighborhood organization says it, too, will demonstrate during the IOC visit.

    A group called Communities For Equitable Olympics (CEO 2016) said it is happy with a minority participation agreement reached with the Chicago 2016, but organizers say they worry the city will renege on the deal.

    CEO 2016 has a commitment from Chicago 2016 that was brokered by several aldermen. It provides for 30% of Olympic contracts to go to African and other minority-owned businesses. Ten-percent would be set aside for female firms. Here's the catch: The Community Benefits Agreement --as it's called-- isn't written into law because the full Chicago City Council hasn't voted on it. The concern from the Kenwood Oakton Community Organization is that City Hall is simply trying to pacify the group until after the IOC leaves town.

    "We will let you know right now, there will be protests. We have been left no choice based on the situation that has been explained up here today. We have tried in all fairness to work within a process that we trusted at first, but this process let us down," said Shannon Bennett, Kenwood Oakland Community Org.

    The Kenwood Oakton Community Organization commissioned a poll of 600 people who live near proposed Olympic venues on the South and West sides.

  • 85% want Olympic jobs to go to neighbors of proposed venues. In fact, they say 80% of all entry level Olympic jobs should go to the south and west side residents.
  • The poll found 78% of those surveyed say they want a community benefits agreement written into law.
  • Chicago 2016 also has a new poll of its own, which reportedly shows increasing support from the entire region for bringing the games to town. That will be unveiled at a news conference on the city's West Side within the hour. We're told they will also unveil a brand-new video showing support for Chicago's Olympic bid, and it will include one of Chicago's most famous athletes.


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