Aldermen, residents weigh in on IOC agreement

June 18, 2009 3:13:09 PM PDT
A spokeswoman for Mayor Daley has said the City Council will go over an agreement that puts Chicago on the hook financially should the city get the 2016 Summer Games. Daley promised the IOC on Wednesday that he would sign the agreement, in which Chicago takes full financial responsibility for the games. Chicago was the only bid city not offering a full government guarantee.

The move surprised many Chicago aldermen- and taxpayers. Daley said an increased insurance policy that will be picked up by the bid organizing committee guarantees taxpayers will not be on the hook for Olympic overruns.

Many aldermen said they could not believe the mayor made the decision in Switzerland- where the city presented its bid for the 2016 Summer Games?without first talking to the city council.

"I think that the mayor needs to explain to the public and to the city council how this would work," Ald. Brendan Reilly, 42nd Ward.

Other Olympic bid supporters like Alderman Walter Burnett said it's not the time for Chicago to make any financial promises.

"The taxpayers in the city of Chicago quite frankly can't afford to take on any more burdens," said Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th Ward

The Rio, Madrid, And Tokyo bids are backed by their national governments. Daley explained to ABC7's Ben Bradley that Chicago--which has already approved a $500 million guarantee-- would get private insurance to make sure no additional taxpayer money would be at risk.

"Insurance policy protects taxpayers. We're not going over $500 million," said Mayor Daley.

But cost overruns have been the rule in Olympic cities in recent years. London--the host city for the 2012 games--has spent $13 billion, which is about three times as much as budgeted.

"These costs have a way of ballooning. There are all kinds of events that can occur, and generally do occur," said Robert Baade, sports economist at Lake Forest College.

Chicagoans are divided on what their city should guarantee for 2016.

"I'm not real happy about it anymore. I'm torn about it. But I don't think it's a real good idea," said one Chicagoan.

"I don't think I would mind. We're already paying a lot of taxes, so might as well put it for something that would showcase the city to the whole world," said another Chicagoan.

Alderman Joe Moore, 49th Ward, wants city council hearings on what the mayor guaranteed. He also wants an independent analysis of what the city can afford when it comes to Olympic guarantees.

"There's a credibility gap, the only way the mayor and his folks are going to be able to close that credibility gap is to have full, open and transparent hearings in front of the city council," said Ald. Joe Moore, 49th Ward.

The mayor's spokeswoman said, "the financial guarantee will be revisited by the city council at hearings."


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