Chicago makes its case for 2016 Olympics

ABC7's Ben Bradley reports from Denver
March 26, 2009 9:01:00 PM PDT
Mayor Richard Daley and the Chicago 2016 Olympic Committee presented their plans for the games to the International Olympic Committee.They were four cities with two hours and one re-occurring theme.

"In the current economic climate, we have certainty," said Carlos Nuzman, Rio 2016 President.

"Tokyo 2016 guarantees 100 percent to deliver the games," said Ichiro Kono, Tokyo 2016 chairman.

"Certainty because Madrid needs the minimum investment to host the games which is this investment waranteed by our public bodies," said Juan Antonio Samaranch, Jr., Madrid 2016, IOC member.

When it was Chicago's turn, unlike the others, Mayor Richard Daley couldn't boast of government funding for his city's bid. In essence, he said "trust us."

"I pledge to you that today the city of Chicago will deliver on its commitments," said Daley.

"I don't think there'd be any doubt Chicago wouldn't be able to write the check," said Phillip Coles, IOC member, Australia.

"I think it's still very open race. It was four excellent presentations and we'll see. Still a couple of months and they all are working very hard," said Gunilla Lindberg, IOC member, Sweden.

While Mayor Daley wraps up two days of courting the Olympic community in Denver, back in Chicago local protest groups are plotting to use next week's IOC visit to further their own agendas. Among them are Chicago Police officers angry that a pay raise has been taken off the table.

"They're not embarrassing me. They're not embarrassing me at all. I just want people to understand people want this. They're going beyond everything but people want America to bring Olympic and Paralympic Games back," said Daley.

"There is a lot of interest. Where is my share of the cake?" said Sir Craig Reedie, IOC Evaluation Commission member.

Craig Reedie is among the IOC members who will inspect Chicago next week. He says his team is accustomed to protestors but he's confident many will come around.

"At the end of the day, certainly in London, people are beginning to understand that there is a good business to be done here and rather than sitting back waiting for it to appear on their front door, they're actually going to get it," said Reedie.

While Mr. Reedie and other IOC Evaluation Commission members have told ABC7 they're open to having a meeting with protest groups, nothing's been scheduled. And it may not happen since the IOC doesn't consider many of the issues directly related to hosting the Games.

Cities sell themselves to IOC

The other cities in the running are also making submissions.

In the Olympic movement, more than 100 countries are represented, dozens of languages are spoken. But one word is universal: Money. And, for a number of reasons, it's a sore subject in Denver as delegates debate: Who has it? Who wants it? And who can deliver it?

Rio offers beauty and a $14 billion government backed-budget. Tokyo too says it is the secure choice in tough economic times. And Madrid's bid leader is telling IOC members, 77 percent of their venues are already built.

"We don't have to invest a lot to finish our proposal for 2016. Nowadays, I think this is very, very important," said Mercedes Coghen, Madrid 2016 CEO.

A very important contrast from Chicago's bid, indeed.

Mayor Daley's plan to combat the federal financing of his competitors' bids: The unstated but certainly not unnoticed backing of a certain Chicagoan who now resides in the White House. Daley says "federal" money will flow to pay for security and infrastructure for the Games.

"What everyone is wondering in your case: Will President Obama turn up in Copenhagen? Being from Chicago there's a great expectation of that," said Patrick Hickey, IOC member, Ireland. "The President of the United States always carries a lot of weight."

"It is going to cost something. Nothing comes for nothing, does it?" said Duncan Mackay, "Inside the Games" editor when asked if Mayor Daley can keep his promise to taxpayers that the games won't cost them anything.

The other money-matter threatening to steal Chicago's momentum in this race: An on-going and increasingly ugly revenue sharing dispute. International Olympic Committee members say for far too long the US Olympic Committee has taken far too much of the Olympic revenue pie.

"It would be naïve to think there isn't crossover but hopefully when we come to a resolution there will be a positive uptick for Chicago," said Bob Ctvrtlik, vice president, U. S. Olympic Committee.

"I don't think generally people have ill feelings toward Chicago," said Patrick Ryan, Chicago 2016 chairman. "The good news is there is progress being made and people are upbeat there will be a solution."

On Thursday evening, Mayor Daley along with leaders from Madrid, Rio and Tokyo were making their case in a series of presentations to Olympic decision makers. And from the looks of the weather and the number of flight cancellations, the Mayor and others may get some extra unexpected time with the IOC as the snow continues to fall.

Protests, protests, protests

Chicago police officers, affordable housing advocates, and minority contractors-- you're not alone. There are more than a few International Olympic Committee members at a conference here in Denver who also have gripes about the US Olympic movement.

"I am angry," an influential Olympic member told Reuters. "I feel we have been run around by the nose for three years by by the USOC." That would be the US Olympic Committee which is witnessing a long simmering revenue dispute erupt an international sports conference here in Denver. It's all about money. For years the USOC, which brings in the largest percentage of sponsorship dollars, has taken the biggest piece of the Olympic revenue pie and IOC members here say enough is enough. There were hopes a new deal would be finalized here in Denver averting hard feelings as Chicago's Olympic bid enters the home stretch.

"It would be naïve to think there isn't crossover," USOC Vice President Bob Ctvrtlik told me last night. But hopefully when we come to a resolution there will be a positive uptick for Chicago."

While angry IOC members won't be protesting on the streets of Chicago, their demand is essentially the same as those who will: "Where's mine?"

IOC boss talks about 2016 Games

The International Olympic Committee is interested in hearing from protest groups during its visit to Chicago in early April. However, the IOC Evaluation Commission will rely on Chicago's Olympic bid committee to determine which groups have "legitimate" gripes about the Games.

"When you have a project like this one not everybody will get the benefits," Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli told ABC 7 in an exclusive interview Wednesday evening. "The general benefit is the reason the cities are bidding."

Mr. Felli, who is a member of the inspection team that will visit Chicago and the other 2016 candidate cities, said the IOC is accustomed to hearing concerns about the Olympics but it's important to differentiate groups that have questions about legacy of the Games and those who simply see the Olympics as an opportunity to push pet projects.

Mr. Felli disputes public perception that the Games have become a cash-inhaling vacuum. While Beijing spent an estimated $40 billion to host the Games Felli says most projects were civic in nature and not directly connected to the Olympic budget. "The [Games] budget did not increase so much, but it has increased," Felli said. "We don't want that and we are trying to understand why there is an increase."

Chicago estimates it will spend $4.8 billion to host the Games but projects a positive economic impact much greater.