Chicago 2016 honors athletes, raises $12M

CHICAGO The event Chicago Believes was three-fold: a send-off for Chicago's 2008 Olympic athletes who are headed to Beijing; a celebration of Chicago's status as a finalist to host the 2016 games; and a fundraiser for the Chicago 2016 bid.

During the day, athletes showed off their talents at Millennium Park.

"Oh, it would be amazing. It is such an honor to be supporting the Olympics, and I would love to go watch the Olympics and be in the Olympics would be amazing. It is my dream," said Corinne Rechenmacher, 12-year-old gymnast.

"It is important that people across the city show their support, and they join in and see the signs and hear about it. This is their chance to get involved and be here and meet Olympians and see demonstrations and the performances. It is a fundraiser but a great celebration for everyone in the city of Chicago," said Mica Mastoff, Chicago 2016.

At 6:30 p.m., a $500 ticket fundraiser that Mayor Daley attended began. The day is supposed to generate Olympic support.

Chicago has spent $9.2 million in the bid for the 2016 games so far.

"This is much more than the Olympic and Paralympic Games coming to Chicago. It is about the United States building bridge of friendship to the world," Daley said.

Twelve million dollars was raised at Monday's fundraiser dinner. It's the most money raised in a single event for the privately funded Olympic bid.

"It's a 49.3 budget for the international phase, so of course tonight's very imoprtant," said Patrick Ryan, Chicago 2016 chairman.

"My dream actually came true. I mean it's still, I feel like it still actually hasn't hit me yet. I think when I get to China I will realize it," said Christina Loukas, Olympic diver.

Loukas is a 22-year-old from Riverwoods. Besides competing, Loukas said, she will do whatever she can to sell Chicago to the world.

"I know that athletes definitely have a voice and they can help in any way they can and I'm gonna do that when I'm in China, you know, I'm gonna promote Chicago," she said.

Daley and Ryan will also head to Beijing to pick up some pointers.

"That's an opportunity to get very direct contact with the IOC members and really sell the city in the bid," said Bill Scherr, Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee.

Monday's event puts Chicago 2016 80 percent of the way to its current, overall fundraising goal.

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