Olympics 2008 Features
US sends First Lady in to bat for Chicago Olympic bid (Feature)
By Andy Goldberg Sep 24, 2009, 5:04 GMT
Chicago - Could it be Chicago's year?
With the city's favourite son Barack Obama riding high in the White House many in the US consider the omens favourable for the Midwest metropolis and trade centre to land the 2016 Olympics.
Obama appears to be too busy pushing health care reform to attend the decisive vote in Copenhagen on October 2, and instead sent letters espousing Chicago's virtues to the 100-plus members of the International Olympic Committee.
However, if Obama does in the end decide to travel, his presence would mean a massive boost for Chicago as the city aims to win the IOC vote over Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo.
Chicago-born First Lady Michelle Obama will definitely go to Copenhagen to lobby on behalf of her hometown, along with talkshow queen Oprah Winfrey and basketball legend Michael Jordan.
Patrick Ryan, the CEO of Chicago's bid, said that no one would interpret Obama's absence as a slight, if he doesn't make it.
'People take him at his word that he fully supports these Games, but that his commitment to health care reform is the fundamental platform of his administration,' Ryan said in an interview with German Press Agency dpa.
Ryan points out that the Chicago bid has plenty of things in its favour. Unusual for an American operation, the bid is not a series of extravagant and spectacular proposals.
It reflects the global recession, and the realisation that no-one can compete with the 40 billion dollars China splashed out overall for the 2008 Games in Beijing.
It also aims to reduce as much as possible the massive event's impact on the environment, and to avoid leaving white elephants after the Games - splashy venues that look good for two weeks but then remain underused for decades.
'In China we are talking about totally different infrastructure needs: roads, airports, the Birds Nest. In Chicago we are very lucky ... In the last decade billions have been invested in Chicago almost in preparation for these games,' Ryan said.
Planning has focused on using Chicago's extensive urban lakefront parks to host the Games, and massive spectator areas for those who can't get in to the actual venues.
Some 85 per cent of the events will take place in four venues in an eight-kilometre ring around a brand-new Olympic village that will be sold off after the Games for private and public housing.
Ninety per cent of athletes will be within 15 minutes of their venues - 46 per cent will be within 5 minutes. Almost 80 per cent of sports will be staged in either existing or temporary venues, making the plan environmentally responsible and relatively frugal with spending projected to be less than 5 billion dollars.
Even the 80,000-seat, 400-million-dollar Olympic stadium will be converted after the games to a smaller arena.
Ryan acknowledges that the race will be tight, but says that Chicago's advantages will eventually win out.
'Our key advantage is summed up in the report of the evaluating committee which said that Chicago has been blessed with 'a virtual playground for the celebration of sport, culture and humanity.' In no place else can you integrate sport and culture in one place,' he said.