Int'l gymnastics event to be held locally

CHICAGO Legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi did some verbal summersaults to show his excitement for a competition coming to Chicago.

In February at the Sears Center, the American Cup will bring the world's top gymnasts and their followers to town. Sean Johnson, Mary Lou Retton - all the big names in gymnastics sprung onto the world stage after victories in the American Cup.

Coach Bela Karolyi says it's bound to make an impression on members of the International Olympic Committee.

"We are number one rated sport," said Karolyi. "Chicago can do it!"

The feel-good announcement comes on a day filled with heartburn for members of the Olympic family.

The worldwide recession is forcing London to scale back venues for the 2012 Games. There's fear that financing and sponsorship dollars are drying up.

This week London's Olympic minister is quoted as saying, "Had we known what we know now, would we have bid for the Olympics? Almost certainly not."

Chicago's bid team still insists comparisons to London's money troubles are unfair.

"It's completely different from London, which is saying we're going to rebuild the infrastructure of our city on one whole side of our city as we do the Olympic Games. That's a very ambitious undertaking and one that's much more expensive than what we're planning on doing here in Chicago," said Bill Scherr, Chicago 2016 board member.

"They've got to be more than a little nervous. All the cities bidding for 2016 have to be thinking, 'Do I really want this thing now?'" said Philip Hersh, Tribune Olympics reporter.

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