Chicago 2016 leader explains bid financing

June 22, 2009 2:59:55 PM PDT
The man in charge of Chicago's Olympic bid is promising there is little risk for the city in a financial guarantee of the games. But Chicago 2016 CEO Patrick Ryan told reporters Monday he wishes his group could have done a better job communicating with the City Council, but he says they had to play their cards close to the vest.

Perhaps realizing a potential public relations problem, Ryan vowed to answer all questions during an exhaustive 90-minute news conference Friday afternoon. Mayor Daley last week committed the city to make a financial guarantee to the IOC. But Pat Ryan says there is a very remote chance that Chicago would ever be on the hook, and even then he says, an insurance policy would cover it.

Chicago 2016 members spent most of last week in Switzerland trying to convince IOC members Chicago would be the best place to host the games. They did it with slick videos and direct talk to members. They believe it went well, but they say it would have all been for naught without a financial guarantee from Mayor Daley. And they insist they were hopeful up to the last minute they would not need that guarantee.

"We really felt that we had such a terrific plan that they would accept it as they knew that the US does not get national government guarantees," Ryan said.

That financial guarantee has some Chicago residents worried they could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars if Chicago 2016's financial projections fall short. Chicago 2016 CEO Pat Ryan admits the City Council could derail the city's bid, but he vows to present them with details of the plan within about 60 days that will reassure them there is little risk involved.

Members of No Games Chicago, who travelled to Lausanne, Switzerland, on their own dime, say they would like to hear the details as well. They presented IOC members with an evidence book filled with stories about corruption and failed leadership in Chicago and they want Ryan to be transparent about the plans.

"He's an insurance guy, so it's like, What are we being sold here? You're not letting us look under the hood of the car. You're selling us this nice insurance policy, but we don't really know what it's like," said Martin Macias, No Games Chicago.

Ryan, the retired former head of Aon Insurance, says Chicago 2016 had no choice but to keep details of the plan to themselves until the last minute.

"I think had we announced something before we went over, we would have weakened our position with IOC members and maybe be a self-fulfilling prophecy," said Ryan.

The city had already guaranteed the IOC they would cover up to a $500 million budget shortfall. The latest guarantee is for another $500 million. Pat Ryan estimated the premiums for that insurance to cover those guarantees could run up to $40 million, which he says will be covered by the private sector.


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