Bid team prepping for Switzerland trip

June 10, 2009 3:30:20 PM PDT
Chicago's Olympic bid team is preparing for its most important presentation to date. Mayor Richard Daley is expected to lead a delegation to Switzerland next week where the 2016 candidate cities will make their case to members of the International Olympic Committee. Among the biggest questions Chicago expects to be asked: How will the city finance the Games?

It was learned Wednesday that Mayor Daley was considering cancelling his trip to Switzerland because of the city's budget mess and impending layoffs. But now a mayoral spokesperson says Daley doesn't believe staying home would move union negotiations forward. Besides, skipping the Olympic meeting could have been devastating for the city's bid. Nearly 90 of the 107 voting members of the International Olympic Committee are expected to be there.

"This is a real opportunity to create the impression we need," said Patrick Ryan, Chicago 2016 chairman.

Among the International Olympic Committee members, Chicago is perhaps the "least" know of the cities competing to host the 20-16 Games.

Madrid, Rio and Tokyo have all bid before. They've all also previously hosted Olympic-caliber competition. As they did in Denver in March, each city will have the opportunity to present its plan for hosting the Games. That 45 minute pitch will be followed by another 45 minutes of hardcore questioning by IOC members.

Chicago's bid chief says he expects one issue to be front and center: Money.

"I think they're going to talk a lot about the guarantees because our competition has been talking about our not having a national government guarantee, which is true," said Ryan.

Chicago is proposing to turn the Olympic financing model on its head. Rather than have government pay to build venues, Chicago claims to have the fundraising and sponsorship prowess to privately pay for the Games.

"We think it's a better model than just relying on a national government guarantee," Ryan said. "Frankly, we think it's much more favorable to the taxpayers of a community, because there's much less at risk."

Chicago will also be formally introducing itself to many IOC members next week. While an IOC inspection team visited the city in April, the vast majority of those who will decide on the 2016 host city have never been to Chicago and dozens have only had brief meetings with members of the city's bid team at conferences and sporting events around the world.

"There's a much larger number of people that don't know the details of the plan, and that is really very, very important for us," said Doug Arnot, Chicago 2016 venue and operations director.

Chicago's team will also face questions about turmoil in the leadership of the US Olympic Committee. They've had a total turnover at the top. And that means Chicago and the US will have to build a lot of trust with IOC members during the final 3 1/2 months of this race.


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