IOC leaves town
April 8, 2009 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- The International Olympic Committee has wrapped up its tour of Chicago.
The IOC is leaving after being here for about a week, and so far reviews from the committee are glowing. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is giving credit to the queen of talk.
"She would steal the show any time. I would be very frank. She is very popular in the world. Let's be realistic, very, very popular," Daley said of Oprah Winfrey.
Winfrey gave a presentation during a cultural show and banquet for the IOC Monday night. The mayor called the event at the Art Institute a success, thanks in part to Oprah's international appeal.
"She is an individual that you admire because of where she came from. She has been very, very successful. She gives back into the community. She has a huge impact in the world on many, many issues," Daley said.
Judging from the IOC's comments at their final press conference, long-time IOC reporters say Chicago has a solid shot.
"We are leaving with a very strong impression that the bid is a strong one," said Nawal El Moutawakel, evaluation commission chairwoman.
During their visit to Chicago, the members of the evaluation commission went over every detail of Chicago's bid, from security, construction and financing as well as touring the various proposed venues. They heard from Olympians, politicians and business and community leaders about why Chicago should get the 2016 Games.
"We're very pleased with their reaction, but we're not deluding ourselves. They are going on to three great cities," said Patrick Ryan, Chicago 2016 chairman.
And those three great cities are Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Madrid. The IOC says a 100-member committee will make its final decision and make its announcement in October.
Those opposed to bringing the Games to Chicago actually got a chance to voice their objection to the Olympic committee. The protesters feel that money would be better spent on other projects. Others personally addressed the committee for about half an hour. They discussed budget deficits and corruption in Chicago and in Illinois. They also think the protests are having an effect.
"It's gone on for a number of years. The city is a little bit hesitant. They have begun to work with us," said Jeffery Campbell, Housing Bronzeville.
"The city has a history of construction boondoggles," said Bob Quellos, No Games Chicago.
Olympic committee members listened but they did not ask any questions.
Overall, the committee's chairperson says they were "most impressed."
The team of a dozen people is the eyes and ears of the 100-member International Olympic Committee.
The fact of the matter is the majority of IOC members will vote on a host city having never visited all of the candidates. It's why everyone is listening very carefully to what Evaluation Commission members had to say.
Strong, fantastic, beautiful, excellent - those are just some of the words two influential members of the IOC used to describe their impressions of Chicago and its Olympic bid.
What really matters to the evaluation commission is whether Chicago can deliver on its promise to build, host and run an Olympic Games - all without a dime of government money.
"All the guarantees have been thoroughly studied. They will be studied further in the technical report and we cannot give further details regarding this," said El Moutawakel.
The IOC team had high praise for plans for the athletes' village on the site of the old Michael Reese Hospital. They also took note of the decision to build a less expensive, 'temporary' Olympic Stadium.
"We are against host cities leaving behind big huge elephants. What you call it? White elephants," said El Moutawakel.
As an IOC member, Bob Ctvrtlik, has voted on six previous Olympic host cities and says he's concerned Chicago has only been visited by a quarter of the people who will eventually vote.
"I'm very confident about the city of Chicago. What I'm not confident about is we have to get those other 80 members somewhere around the world and have the time to convince them and sell them on our city," said Bob Ctvrtlik, US Olympic Committee vice president.
While baseball's not an Olympic sport, Chicago's mayor wasn't about to miss the Sox home opener where he talked about, what else?
"I was walking in and guess what? Fans were saying, did we win? Not the game. Did we win the bid," said Mayor Daley.
We won't know that until October, but longtime Olympics reporters say it's rare for an IOC inspection team to offer a city so many kind words.
"Does it mean anything? No. There's a long way to go. Does it mean a little something today? Yes," said Alan Abrahamson, Olympics reporter.
One down; three to go. This IOC team gets a few days off. Then they head to Tokyo and Rio. Madrid is their last stop. They'll visit those cities in the next month. They will then publish a report in September.
IOC talks to reporters
Before they left Chicago to visit other candidate cities who want to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, members of the IOC evaluation team spoke with reporters.
But they didn't say much. At least not in specifics. But they did say they Chicago had a good vibe.
"We felt the whole community was behind the bid, backing the bid. Every single moment we went through- all the boulevards in this vibrant city, we felt there was a very strong backing for this bid," said El Moutawakel. "I don't think four days can be enough to see the entire population of Chicago, but the one we have seen so far, in every site visit, has shown there is a strong desire and profound love of the Olympic sport."
El Moutawakel said the team understands Chicago 2016's vision, and it will be carefully studied and described in the final reports.
"We have been all around the city for more than 10 hours on Sunday...we have seen during those 10 hours all kinds of boulevards and we visited the site where, eventually, if you get the Games, the venues. We have seen strong support from younger generation, from older people, from sports people, from Olympians, Paralympians."
"But at the end there is only one winner, and this is what I would like to emphasize. There are four very strong candidates and at the end there is only one winner," said El Moutawakel.
IOC talks to critics
Before talking to the media, the IOC members met with some of their most vocal critics.
On Tuesday, the head of one anti-Olympics group said he was surprised the International Olympic Committee evaluation team asked to meet with him. He said they asked no questions, but listened as he and others expressed concerns about everything from cost to corruption in the city of Chicago.
One of the issues was housing. Gilber Felli called plans for the Olympic Village beautiful.
"It's true you can not always please 100 percent of the citizens in any project," said Felli, who said he believes the city should hear the concerns of its citizens and work with them.
Other groups are using the Olympic visit as a golden opportunity to advance causes for which they have fought for a long time.
"We have said if you're going to come to Bronzeville, you need to leave something in Bronzeville, more than just a stadium, more than just the Olympic housing. What we need you to leave is affordable housing for moderate income people. So if the International Olympic Committee will commit to that, then the city will jump on board, naturally," said Campbell.
Bronzeville affordable housing activists knew an opportunity when they saw it. They say on the eve of the IOC visit the city agreed to sell them 500 vacant parcels of land for a buck a pop. The city says that number is much smaller.
No Games Chicago has been one of the more vocal opponents of the Olympic Games, though their protests have been small in number of participants.
During the IOC visit, Daley touted Chicago's support for the Games.
"We really believe the sprit of Chicago is here for the 2016 Olympic and Paralolympics," said Mayor Daley.
Before meeting with the critics, IOC members spoke security with officials. Chicago's top cop traded his civilian suit for dress blues when he and the local FBI boss briefed IOC members on Chicago's security plan. The goal, they said, is to not have a Chicago Games feel as though they're taking place in a police-state
"The integration of federal, state and local resources to make it a safe venue, a good public venue for visitors as well as athletes," said Richard Grant, FBI special agent in charge- Chicago.
Regardless of whether Chicago gets the 2016 Games, bid organizers say people throughout the city are already benefiting. Chicago 2016, through a sister organization, has spent a little more than $1 million on programs to introduce inner-city kids to Olympic sports, like handball and archery.
"Everybody's not a basketball player, everybody's not a football or baseball player but here's an opportunity for some of our kids to be involved in non-traditional sports," said Alonzo Williams, Chicago Park District.
Since arriving in town last week, the evaluation team has toured the city, including proposed Olympic venues and met with Chicago 2016 to discuss the city's bid. The tour has been tightly choreographed and those who support the bid include a list of Who's Who Chicago, including U.S. President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan. Winfrey attended the cultural event, City Night, on Monday.
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