IOC tours proposed Olympic venues in Chicago

IOC views recorded message from Michael Jordan
April 5, 2009 8:51:59 PM PDT
The rain and snow held off for most of the International Olympic Committee's road trip around Chicago Sunday.For more than 10 hours, they visited various venues, sizing up the city's plan to host the 2016 Games.

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  • The IOC's main mission in Chicago this week is to perform a technical analysis of the city's ability to host the Olympics, but that doesn't mean Chicago didn't sprinkle in a little star power.

    IOC members applauded at the last stop of the day, the United Center. It was their sign of approval meant for the handball team, gymnasts and basketball players who illustrated the sports that may compete at the United Center in 2016.

    "I'd like to welcome you to one of my favorite places in the world," said basketball icon Michael Jordan in a video recorded message that greeted the IOC at the United Center.

    Jordan, the man who single-handedly changed Chicago's reputation from mob-town to sports-town, offered a message IOC members had to love hearing.

    "I've had some tremendous memories during my professional basketball career, but the memory of standing as a representative of the United States at the Olympics is one of proudest moment of my life," Jordan said in the recording.

    Bussed-in supporters provided the backdrop for the IOC venue tour from Lincoln Park to Washington Park, where an Olympic stadium may one day rise. They also visited McCormick Place and Soldier Field. They saw it all.

    "Actually, I did get 30 seconds, and I got to say Chicago is an amazing city. I grew up here!" said Olympic swimmer and Tinley Park resident Christine Magnuson.

    Magnuson, a Beijing silver medalist, made a brief pitch to the IOC during their stop at Soldier Field. Kids were brought in to play soccer on grass that was painted green.

    From a sky suite, the IOC team was briefed on Soldier Field having hosted the women's World Cup. Out of the window, there was a view of Northerly Island, which would be home to a whitewater kayaking course and beach volleyball.

    "Sailing, kayaking, open water, all these sports that, normally, you don't get to see close-up, you get to see right from the lakefront," Magnuson told ABC7 Chicago.

    The head of the IOC team applauded the King College Prep high school marching band, which welcomed them to Washington Park.

    Aldermen made it a point to mention to the Olympic committee that a Chicago Games would take place almost entirely on public park land.

    "Unlike other cities which cleared whole sections so that they could build the venues or the Olympic Village, we're not doing that," said 4th Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle.

    The husband and wife Olympic duo of Nadia Comaneci and Bart Connor were also lobbying for Chicago. Nadia talked up the athlete-oriented Olympic Village.

    "We know gymnastics training facilities will be right in the Olympic Village. This is like so convenient, maybe too convenient for the coaches!" said Comaneci, an Olympic gymnast.

    As for any anti-Olympic protestors, the group No Games Chicago was a virtual no-show Sunday.

    And for anyone wondering what IOC members think about what they've seen and heard, IOC members won't be making any public comments until the last day of their visit, which is Tuesday. Even then, expect them to only speak positively of Chicago. They'll do the same when they visit Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid in the coming days. No one will find out what they really think until their report comes out in a few months.

    The tour was conducted one day after Pres. Barack Obama made a personal pitch to the IOC on his home city's behalf. Obama said in a four-minute video recording that Chicago is a "city that lives and breathes the ideals of perseverance."

    The president's pitch came as ABC7 learned of an added inconvenience Chicago residents might face if the city is successful in its pursuit of the games.

    The president stressed in the videotaped message that Chicago is already a global city.

    In the presentation room, on one side, 13 members of the International Olympic Committee sat against a painted backdrop of the Chicago skyline. On the other: Mayor Richard Daley and the 2016 bid team. Weighing in via videotape is another Chicagoan.

    "Once you discover the Chicago I know, the city I made my home, the city where my wife grew-up, the city where we raised our daughters just blocks from where these Games will be held, I'm confident you'll discover that you're already in the perfect host city," said Pres. Obama.

    President Barack Obama promised a Chicago games would stir the souls of people the world-over.

    Federal support of the Games will also be underscored in the coming days when the president's senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and Education Secretary Arne Duncan fly in to address the IOC team.

    "They're committed to the bid, not just for Chicago but for the entire United States," said Daley.

    IOC members were shown a video of the proposed Olympic Village. For the first time we see and insider's view of the development slated for the near South Side.

    A new pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Drive would give the athletes their own private beach. What's good news for the Olympians might be bad news for Chicagoans who may lose access to the bike path and slice of the lakefront for a month or longer.

    "The ability to go from the north shore to the south shore would exist however that particular area would be closed off," said Doug Arnot, Chicago 2016 Venues and Operations.

    "There is a reality they will impact the community. It will be different having the Olympics here due to security and re-routing of roads," said Ed Hula, "Around the Rings" editor.

    Saturday afternoon presentations

    Chicago is the first city being inspected by the IOC, and the 2016 bid team opened its presentation with its vision for the Games, featuring themes such as friendship and peace.

    The presentations were going on at the Fairmont hotel Saturday.

    It is said that the first day of presentations is the second most important day in the process of bidding for the Olympics, second only to the day when the entire IOC membership votes on the host city.

    With Chicago's bid team and IOC evaluation committee members face-to-face for the first time in a formal setting, the presentation room was where promises were made and the IOC evaluated whether they could be kept.

    Chicago's bid team was decked out in matching green neckties to underscore the environmentally friendly components of the bid. Mayor Daley said he was happy to finally get the sales pitch under way.

    Saturday, the IOC wanted to hear about Chicago's concept and plans for a post-Games legacy.

    The city's museum campus, open lakefront, and compact Olympic plan were all being talked up. And President Obama appeared via video recording to offer a powerful and personal endorsement.

    "Chicago is that most American of American cities," Obama said. "Once you discover the Chicago I know, the city I made my home, the city where my wife grew up, the city where we raised our daughters just blocks from where these Games will be held, I'm confident you'll discover that you're already in the perfect host city."

    The Chicago native who now resides in Washington, highlighted the city's ethnic and religious diversity and pledged a memorable Olympic experience if Chicago is selected to be the 2016 host city.

    "When those games are finally held here I promise you this: They will not only stir the soul of this city and stir the soul of America, they will stir the soul of the entire world," the president said.

    Obama's "stir the soul" line mirrors Chicago's previous bid slogan which was dumped last month in favor of the roundly criticized line "let friendship shine." A Chicago 2016 spokesman could not immediately say if the President's message was taped before the slogan switch.

    President Obama was in London earlier this week attending the G20 summit. It's widely expected that he will travel to Copenhagen in October to personally lobby members of the IOC in the hours before they cast their votes.

    Along with fancy videos and well-rehearsed presentations, Saturday's meeting also offered Chicago's bid team their first chance to defend what some see as rosy revenue projections and sponsorship forecasts.

    At an afternoon press briefing, Chicago 2016 reps wouldn't disclose what specific questions the IOC asked.

    "They were seeking, among other things, to establish does Chicago get it? Does Chicago 2016 bid committee get it?" said presenter John Macaloon.

    One thing Chicago told the IOC 'gets' is keeping costs under control. They'll try to do it by building temporary venues. Chicago's biggest will be the Olympic stadium in Washington Park, but there are others, including the tennis venue proposed for Lincoln Park. It was first suggested by an IOC study commission several years ago.

    "The idea there was to minimize the expense to the city by using temp venues wherever appropriate and possible," 2016 presenter George Hirthler said.

    Saturday's presentations wrapped up late in the afternoon, with an update expected to come Saturday night.

    Unfortunately, everyone was cooped up in the conference room on a sunny day when the city looked splendid.

    Sunday, Mayor Daley was expected to take IOC members on a bus tour of proposed venues. The weather forecast promises clouds and rain.

    White House advisors come to pitch the IOC

    ABC 7 News has learned that more high-level support for Chicago's Olympic bid is on the way. White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and US Education Secretary Arne Duncan will fly home to Chicago to make personal presentations to the International Olympic Committee's Evaluation Commission in the coming days.

    Jarrett worked extensively on Chicago's bid before being tapped to join Mr. Obama's White House team.

    Chicago 2016 woos press corps

    It's show and tell time on Saturday for Mayor Daley and the team trying to bring the Olympics to Chicago.

    Buckingham Fountain was even turned on earlier than usual to try to impress the international delegation touring the city.

    But on Friday night, the mayor is lobbying another influential part of the Olympic movement.

    Mayor Daley is doing what he loves best on Friday night: promoting his city.

    The audience: 200 reporters, many from overseas, who cover the Olympic movement.

    "Really it's an opportunity to showcase a city that maybe they've been to New York or LA but never been in the middle of the country so this is important for us," said Daley.

    From the 94th floor of the Hancock Building, the city sparkles below.

    The journalists are there to see whether Chicago slips-up or shines during the Olympic Commitee's Evaluation visit. But some suggest nothing is make or break.

    "The report four years ago placed Paris far ahead of other cities and of course London ended up winning so how much notice members take is debatable," said Duncan Mackay, insidethegames.com.

    One factor looming large during the IOC visit is a recent, and sudden change at the top of the US Olympic Committee.

    The new boss is a Wisconsin resident who's working as hard as Chicago this week to prove herself to IOC members.

    "They didn't see it as a problem. I don't think it's a problem for Chicago's bid," said Stephanie Streeter, US Olympic Committee CEO.

    "We've got sports all along the lakefront and parks. Here's Soldier Field," said Patrick Ryan, Chicago 2016 CEO, on Friday night.

    Ryan uses a touchscreen map to highlight the compactness of Chicago's city-center plan. While he and his team rehearse, IOC members are sampling restaurants and night life on their own on Friday night.

    "I think the feeling they get for the city and the people is very important," said Ryan.

    The rules say bid cities can only wine and dine IOC members on one night of their visit. So the party that really matters happens Monday night at the Art Institute. Mayor Daley is bringing Oprah to that one

    Foreign press comes to town

    On Friday night, there was a reception for media members from around the world who are in town to cover the visit.

    Olympic bids are won by fighting the battle on several fronts.

    The generals are the IOC members who watch from the hills and evaluate tactics. They won't be at the reception to watch the propaganda war being waged.

    Mayor Daley will be joined by a small army of Olympians in a perch overlooking the city.

    Friday night's party is meant to woo the road warriors who write about the Olympic movement.

    "Something we're proud of 65 plus languages spoken by our volunteers and that's what Chicago really is about. It's a city built by immigrants," said Ryan.

    Ryan rehearses the points he'll punch during talks with members of the Olympic evaluation commission. Chicago as an 'international city' is a major theme.

    "It can go anyway on the day of the vote," said Shinsuke Kobayashi, Kyodo News Service.

    Kobayashi covers the Olympics for a Japanese news service. He's in town sizing up the competition between Tokyo, Chicago, Madrid and Rio.

    "Rio has the best cause to host the Games, first every Olympics for South America. But there has always been doubt about if they manage to host such a large event," said Kobayashi.

    Mayor Daley attempted to erase similar doubts about Chicago when he hosted the World Boxing Championships in 2007. At the time, he entertained boxing president CK Wu. Mr. Wu is back in town. Now, he's a member of the evaluation commission judging Chicago.

    "We don't usually openly discuss the vote but I can tell you my appreciation to Chicago and my impression of its ability have certainly earned my favor," said Ching-Kuo Wu, IOC Evaluation Commission member.

    Moroccan Nawal El Moutawakel Nawal El Moutawakel heads the IOC team. She is also no stranger to the Midwest having attended college at Iowa State.

    Chicago's bid team will use technology, personality and perseverance in the coming days to convince the judges we have what it takes.

    Ryan says Sunday's venue tour will be key. Although he wishes he could change one thing.

    "The flowers were blooming. I wish it were not 35 degrees or whatever it is. But it is still such a great and beautiful city and they're going to see it in a very positive light," said Ryan.

    Chicago's charm offensive continues Monday. That's when Oprah Winfrey joins Buddy Guy, Coco Taylor and others for a dinner with IOC members at the Art Institute. That's the one and only time Chicago is allowed to wine and dine the IOC team while they're in town.

    IOC sets agenda for visit

    On Friday, IOC members set an agenda for what they will see and do during their stay.

    On Thursday night, evaluation commission members played the role of tourist, hitting local restaurants in small groups to get a feel for the city.

    "We've got sports all along the lakefront and parks. Here's Soldier Field. Here's the rowing venue," said Patrick Ryan, Chicago 2016 CEO.

    Ryan showed off a touch screen map that will showcase the city's venues even before the IOC team left its hotel.

    It's part of an elaborate meeting space where Chicago will makes its case.

    "They really are the eyes and ears of the full Olympic membership," said Ryan.

    On Saturday, the presentations begin. They'll cover 17 themes ranging from cost to crowd control.

    On Sunday, Mayor Daley will break his long-standing rule against participating in public or political events on Sundays. He'll play tour guide, escorting the IOC via hybrid bus here to Washington Park.

    New signs are up. Police stand guard. And trash is being removed.

    To the west in Douglas Park, IOC members will see the home of the proposed cycling center. It may not look like much now, but remember inspection team members are often asked to use their imagination.

    When London was bidding for the 2012 Games, the IOC got a tour of a semi-toxic waste dump. It's where London's Olympic Village is now being built.

    "We've been showing great videos and we've been talking but seeing it is going to be different. It's coming alive," said Ryan.

    Meanwhile, Mayor Daley continues talking-up benefits for the entire city.

    "This is not about people now, this is about 2016. This is about all the infrastructure improvements you can do with spending from the federal government. It's amazing how much money they spend," said Mayor Daley.

    Members of the international media who regularly cover the Olympic movement have been arriving in Chicago all day.

    On Friday evening, Mayor Daley will be joined by 25 U.S. Olympians to welcome them at a cocktail party at the top of the Hancock building.

    Chicago 2016 hands out 10,000 T-shirts

    As IOC members get down to business, Chicago 2016 encourages residents to show their support.

    On Friday morning, volunteers with Chicago's Olympic bid handed out 10,000 Chicago 2016 T-shirts and encouraged commuters to wear them around town to show support of the city's bid for the 2016 Games.

    Chicago is competing with Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Madrid to host the games. The Windy City is the first stop for the IOC evaluation team, which will spend six days in Chicago, before visiting the other bid cities.

    A decision on which city will host the 2016 Olympic Games is expected in October.

    In a break from tradition, Chicago Mayor Daley will work on Sunday. He will take part of a tour of proposed Olympic venues.

    Friday night, members of the IOC team will be the guests of honor at the Art Institute of Chicago. They will be entertained at the celebration, called City Night, by blues legends Koko Taylor and Buddy Guy; songwriter Andrew Bird; and the Chicago Children's Choir. The menu- made with local ingredients- will be put together by Tony Mantuano, chef and partner at Spiaggia.


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