DEFENDER STAFF WRITER
In two weeks the world will know where the 2016 summer Olympics will be held and Chicago 2016 Chief of Staff Kurt Summers said the city’s chances of hosting the Games here are very good.
Chicago 2016, the city’s official Olympic committee, has raised millions of dollars to compete for the Games and Summers said it welcomes First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan to accompany the committee to Copenhagen to help make a final presentation before the International Olympic Committee as the IOC prepares to announce the host city Oct. 2.
Chicago is competing for the Games against Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.
Summers, 30, a graduate of Whitney Young Magnet High School, joined Chicago 2016 in February after previously working as a chief financial officer for Balton Corp. in Chicago and as an associate for Goldman Sachs. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Washington University in St. Louis.
Chicago 2016’s offices overlook the city’s skyline from the 20th floor of the Aon Center building downtown. Summers sat down there with the Defender and spoke passionately about the city’s chances, why it is so important that Chicago wins its bid to host the Games and clarified a few facts and rumors about the impact the Olympics would have on Chicago and the Black community.
Chicago Defender: Why do you think Chicago will be awarded the Games?
Kurt Summers: Chicago is the best place to have the Olympics in 2016 because it offers venues sites no other city can provide. Besides, the United States is ready to host the Olympics again.
CD: The City Council recently approved financial guarantees you said are needed to remain competitive in the bid process. But what are the chances the Games will turn out to be a financial flop and put taxpayers on the hook?
KS: I seriously doubt if any taxpayer money will be needed to cover losses should Chicago win the Games and it not produce well economically. We have $2 billion in insurance to cover any losses and that would have to get used up first before taxpayers have to help pay a dime. There is also the $500 million the City Council previously approved and money the state has committed that must also get used before taxpayers are asked to pitch in. So this whole notion that taxpayers will be footing the bill is just not true.
CD: What happens to Chicago 2016 if Chicago is not chosen by the IOC next month to host the Games?
KS: If we are not selected we will begin the painful process of dissolving Chicago 2016, which should conclude around December.
CD: What if Chicago does win the Games?
KS: Awin means we must then form a transition committee that would assume the preparation needed for the Games. That means everyone at Chicago 2016 must reapply for their jobs, so that by March 2010 we have the transition team in place.
CD: The momentum among Black residents seems to have changed for the better now that the announcement is two weeks away. What do you think changed the overall mood of Blacks who may have opposed the Games previously?
KS: I truly think the 50 meetings we held in all 50 wards made a huge difference. People came to the meetings with preconceived notions about the Olympics. But after we dispelled a lot of rumors and false facts, people felt comfortable and better understood what we are trying to do. The mood now is like night and day.
CD: Displacement is a major concern for many residents especially low-income renters located near Olympic venues such as the $980 million Olympic Village in the Bronzeville community. Will this massive housing project result in displacement?
KS: The mayor said it best when he said not one person or business will be displaced as a result of building the Olympic Village. In actuality, businesses will benefit from the Olympics because of the extra foot traffic it would generate from those attending the Games. And once the Olympics is over the Olympic Village will add more affordable housing units to the community. The Chicago Housing Authority has expressed an interest in purchasing some units for its tenants and we are very excited about this prospect.
CD: What about jobs? The unemployment rate in Chicago continues to climb and some economists have said in the Black community the rate is much higher.
KS: The Olympics would create jobs and some jobs will be designated for those who live in communities near Olympic venues. We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the City Council that guarantees that a percentage of jobs and housing go to minorities. The majority of residents living near Olympic venues are Black so it’s fair to assume Blacks would benefit the most among all minorities.
CD: Former state Senate President Emil Jones has been critical about the MOU Chicago 2016 negotiated with the City Council. He said it’s a shame and that the agreement does not go far enough to ensure Blacks get their fair share of opportunities from the Olympics. What’s your take on his previous remarks?
KS: Sen. Jones is a good man and I have nothing but respect for him but his remarks about the MOU were way off base. I was with Sen. Jones at a baseball game when he told me he was getting ready to go public with his thoughts about the MOU. I told him then I disagreed with his position as I still do today. For example, he spoke about minorities only getting 10 percent of the apprentice opportunities when in fact it’s 50 percent when you factor in the MOU and what the city already has in place for allocating apprentices to minorities. The MOU is a good deal for everyone.
CD: What economic impact overall would the Olympics have on Chicago?
KS: Chicago 2016 commissioned a study in December that identified the potential gains Chicago stands to receive if we win the Games.
For starters, the study found that from 2011 through 2021 the Olympics would stimulate $22.5 billion of incremental economic activity in Illinois and $13.7 billion in Chicago. And the study also found that 315,000 new jobs would be created in Illinois and 172,000 in Chicago.
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