/ 8 April 2009

IOC says Chicago 2016 bid is ‘strong’

The Chicago bid for the 2016 Summer Games is strong and impressive, the chair of the International Olympic Committee’s evaluation commission said at the conclusion of a site visit on Tuesday.

”We are very pleased to be here in this vibrant city of Chicago in the state of Illinois where different sports from grassroots to the professional level has such a huge part in people’s every day life,” said Nawal el Moutawakel, who won a gold medal for Morocco in 1984 in the 400m hurdles.

”We have been most impressed to find what Chicago could offer to the Olympic Games and the Olympic movement.”

Chicago was the first candidate city to be visited by the 13 member panel, which met with bid officials and civic leaders and spent Sunday touring proposed venues in the freezing rain.

”We are very comfortable with what we have seen and all the answers to the hundreds and hundreds of questions we addressed to the team,” said Moutawakel, who thanked bid officials for ”their
excellent and their highly professional preparation, cooperation, dedication hard work and warm hospitality”.

”We are leaving with a very strong impression that the bid is a strong one but at the end there is only one winner,” Moutawakel said, adding that there are ”four strong bidders”.

The panel will visit Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro in the coming weeks to determine the risks and opportunities presented by each bid and will present a report to the IOC ahead of an October 2

Once considered the frontrunners, according to the influential GamesBid.com site, Chicago has slipped to fourth place after a series of apparent setbacks.

Bid officials said Chicago has a ”tremendous advantage” with its ample parks and protected lakefront which would 85% of the events to be held within an eight kilometer radius in the city centre.

”We were very pleased with their reaction but we’re not deluding ourselves they’re going on to three great cities and three great cities will show well,” Chicago 2016 chairperson Pat Ryan told reporters.

”We’re going to keep working very, very hard and keep going up to the finish line on October 2.”

A significant disadvantage given the current economic crisis and the ballooning costs of the Vancouver and London games is Chicago’s failure to obtain full financial guarantee from local governments.

The organising committee has budgeted for $3,3-billion in expenses and a $450-million ”rainy day” fund and has obtained $750-million in guarantees from the city and state governments. It also expects to obtain $500-million in private insurance.

The city has agreed to develop the site of the Olympic Village at a cost of just under a $1-billion regardless of whether it wins the bid and private funding will be secured to build other permanent venues.

Mayor Richard Daley praised organisers for developing a ”very reasonable, very conservative and very feasible” budget plan and assured residents that ”taxpayers will not have to spend any tax money on this”.

Moutawakel declined to comment on whether Chicago’s financial guarantees were sufficient but said the ”massive” amount of interest expressed in the Games shows it will not be hampered by the economic downturn.

”The crisis will not last forever. It has to stop sometime and we still have seven years to go,” she told reporters. – AFP