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Ald: Unanimous vote makes bid stronger

September 10, 2009 9:54:41 AM PDT
Chicago's efforts to host the 2016 Olympics have kicked into high gear with the announcement of the winning city coming three weeks from Friday. Chicago aldermen just approved an ordinance that gives the full city council full financial responsibility if Chicago is awarded the Games. It also requires oversight, so the public is kept aware of Olympic dealings.

First Ward Ald. Manny Flores has fought for oversight of the Olympic bid.

Flores says the unanimous vote was a critical juncture for the bi.

"The unanimous vote is a positive thing for our bid team in presenting now that we have the full package as part of the bidding process," Flores said. "I think with the provisions that we passed yesterday with regards to additional oversight, additional insurance protection requirements, additional transparency, we have the strongest bid. I think the 48 other council members agree that the mayor deserves a lot of credit for his leadership and a lot of credit goes to Pat Ryan and Lori Healey with the 2016 team with what they have done so far."

Those who oppose the bid say this is just putting taxpayers on the hook in Chicago. The mayor says that the insurance guarantees will protect the taxpayers.

"There has been a lot of debate on this issue, a lot of healthy debate," Flores said. "It's been very open, very inclusive. Chicagoans have had an opportunity with the 50-ward tour to meet with 2016 members."

Flores said an outside organization reviewed the bid details and felt they were realistic. He also said the insurance acquired by Chicago 2016 will be effective.

"We are setting a new standard," Flores said. "We are requiring additional insurance per the ordinance passed yesterday to deal with the construction of the Olympic Village, something that Vancouver didn't have, and they had to deal with cost overruns."

Flores said despite initial reservations about financing, he fully supports bringing the Olympics to Chicago.

"With three weeks out, it is like us being at the one-yard line," Flores said. "We're about to get to the end zone. We need to showcase why it is we deserve the bid. I think we deserve it. I think we should get it."

Flores fought for oversight but didn't get all the stipulations he wanted. He said what they got was good enough.

"They want to make sure that all of the financials are posted, that all of it, the construction contracts, are made available and that we understand what the audits are, and we understand what reports are submitted to the IOC [International Olympic Committee]," Flores said. "Chicagoans will have the opportunity to look at that. We will also know who is getting the contracts, the general contracts, subcontractors, and there's also still oversight provisions empowering the city council to bring on any third parties, including the Office of the Inspector General and others to provide the expertise and policy advice. This is a win-win for everybody. Let's bring the Games home to Chicago."

Next week, the White House will host an Olympic and Paralympic Day.

The news followed Wednesday's unanimous vote by the City Council to take full financial responsibility if Chicago is awarded the 2016 Games.

President Obama supported Chicago's 2016 bid on camera. Now U.S. Olympic officials want him to meet face to face with the IOC in Copenhagen.

"There is an expectation level by the voting members of the IOC for the president to be there. And the other heads of state have all committed to be there. So we're hoping President Obama will show up and participate," said Larry Probst, USOC, chairman of the board.

"It would be a big positive if he were there and arguably a bigger negative if he weren't there and all other heads of state did show up," said Dick Pound, IOC member.

Especially because the president is from Chicago, leading the nation with fellow Chicagoans like Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and Rahm Emmanuel - key sources for Mayor Daley - it's more important.

"I don't see how they can turn the mayor down if he wants Obama to go, since all of them got their start with the mayor, "said Prof. Paul Green, Roosevelt University.

On Wednesday, the city council backed Mayor Daley and the Games one by one.

"I'm a cheerleader for 2016!" said Alderman Bernard Stone.

In the end, the aldermen unanimously supported an ordinance that allows the mayor to sign the Olympic host city contract. That means the city will be responsible for picking up the tab.

The mayor insists that insurance guarantees will protect taxpayers up to $1.5 billion.

"I understand the public had questions, they should. The marketing wasn't done that well by Chicago 2016. People got confused. Recession is out there. Yes, that had responsible questions, and we answered every responsible question," said Mayor Daley.

Chicago taxpayers along the lakefront Wednesday night were divided.

"I say let's go for it. I'm willing to put myself on the line and pay some extra taxes to bring the Olympics to Chicago. It would be amazing," said Jessica Cappelli, Chicago resident.

"Everybody is going to end up paying in the end, "said Sheyssa Rosado, Chicago resident.

U.S. Olympic officials say, in the past, having the head of a country attend the final process really made a difference. They credit Tony Blair for helping London secure the 2012 Summer Games. Russia's Vladamir Putin also showed up when his country won the 2014 Winter Games.


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