Chicago made a ‘strong’ impression on IOC

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The 13-member International Olympic Committee’s Evaluation Commission wrapped up its four-day review of Chicago Tuesday and concluded that the city’s bid for the 2016 Games is viable and strong. They were in town April 3-7.

The 13-member International Olympic Committee’s Evaluation Commission wrapped up its four-day review of Chicago Tuesday and concluded that the city’s bid for the 2016 Games is viable and strong. They were in town April 3-7.

“We were impressed with what Chicago has to offer. We have very carefully visited the venues and worked closely with Chicago 2016 while here,” Nawel El Moutawakel, chair of the evaluation team, said at a Tuesday news conference. “We are leaving with a strong impression that the bid here is strong.”

The evaluation team began its visit Friday atop the John Hancock Building where they experienced captivating views of the city’s lakefront, skyline and outlining area.

Saturday’s agenda included several closed-door meetings where the IOC listened to the various components of why Chicago deserves to host the Games.

Chicago is one of four cities–along with Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo–competing for the 2016 games and is the first stop on the evaluation committee’s tour of the potential host cities.

Aside from the city’s Olympic committee, Chicago 2016, a number of former Olympians, politicos, high profile entertainers and others, helped to make the appeal for Chicago.

A videotaped welcome message from President Barack Obama started the day on Saturday, then city officials and Olympians spelled out what the rest of the evaluation team needed to hear and see.

The president said the city, rebuilt after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, hosted the World’s Fair in 1933, and the city is a melting pot for all to “reach for the American dream.”

“After your visit, once you discover the Chicago that I know, the city that made my home, the city where my wife grew up, the city where we raised our daughters just blocks from where these games will be held, I am confident you will discover that you’re already in the perfect host city,” the president said.

George Hirthler, a senior strategist for Chicago 2016, said, “Chicago’s cityscapes works as a host arena for the games, and the legacy will not simply be what’s going to be left behind from the games but from the bid.”

Chicago, a “city of festivals and a city known for its sports,” wants to deliver spectacular games for each participant and spectator. They will put the athletes at the center of the games and put the games at the center of the city, said paralympian John Register, who is from west suburban Oak Park.

The “Olympic Ring,” a five- to eight-mile radius that puts the best that Chicago has to offer, is expected to transform downtown Chicago, and adjacent communities, into a single civic arena that will house the many venues associated with the games, he said.

The Olympic Village, proposed to be located at 2929 S. Ellis Ave., which is alongside Lake Michigan, is a key element of the venue plan.

It’s just south of the McCormick Place, where 11 sports would be held, and puts most of the athletes within 15 minutes of the competition and training sites.

The site was one of several the evaluation team spent six hours Sunday reviewing. They toured proposed venues on the South and North Sides and listened to presentations from two Olympians, Chicago Bulls basketball star Michael Jordan and wrestler Bob Pickens.

The road cycling and mountain bike portion of the games will take place in Madison, Wis.

The commission was also greeted in Washington Park Sunday by the King College Prep Marching Band and by several South Side aldermen.

The proposed Olympic Stadium, an 80,000-seat facility where the Games’ opening ceremonies would take place, would be set in Washington Park. The stadium would be converted to a 5,000-seat amphitheater once the Games concluded.

Aldermen Pat Dowell (3rd), Toni Preckwinkle (4th) and Leslie Hairston (5th) worked together on an ordinance to ensure that minority communities directly affected by the Olympics receive a fair share of contracts and affordable housing.

“I think we have a good chance of winning the Games,” Hairston said. “Improvement to transportation needs to happen to better our chances. But regardless if we get the Olympics or not, we still need to improve our mass transit system.”

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In photo: Members of the 13-member International Olympic Committee’s Evaluation Commission offer comments Tuesday after a four-day visit to the city in conjunction with Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympic games.

Copyright 2009 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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