- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

LAUSANNE, Switzerland | The four cities bidding for the 2016 Olympics took their case directly to the voters Wednesday, stressing the backing of their government leaders and promising financial security for their multibillion-dollar projects.

Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro made formal presentations to members of the International Olympic Committee in a crucial test before the final vote in Copenhagen on Oct. 2.

“I’m a lucky man not to be obliged to vote,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said after the presentations. “It’s going to be a very difficult choice for my colleagues. I can say very clearly the four bid cities are capable of hosting superb games.”

The closed-door sessions at the Olympic Museum were attended by 93 of the IOC’s 107 members - a strong turnout showing intense interest in what shapes up as a tight race between candidates from four continents.

At a time of global recession, budget plans and financial guarantees came under extra scrutiny in the 45-minute presentations and 45-minute question-and-answer sessions. Rio even brought the head of Brazil’s central bank to reinforce its economic message.

“There was definitely an emphasis on financial considerations,” Rogge said.

Chicago, seeking to take the Summer Games back to the United States for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, led off the proceedings with a six-member delegation headed by bid leader Pat Ryan and Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Rogge said Daley confirmed he would sign the Olympic host city contract if Chicago gets the Olympics, requiring the city to take full financial responsibility for the games. Chicago had previously raised concerns about some of the guarantees required in the standard contract.

Chicago showed a video featuring Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama, in which she reiterated the chief executive’s support for the bid. She highlighted Tuesday’s announcement that Obama is forming a White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport.

Bid officials hope that Obama - a former Illinois state senator from Chicago - will travel to Copenhagen for the IOC vote.

Jarrett’s appearance “is reflecting the president’s commitment,” Ryan said. “I thought she expressed the president’s thoughts extremely well.”

Asked why Obama himself did not appear in Wednesday’s video, Chicago venues and operations director Doug Arnot said the IOC had asked the cities not to use “celebrities and dignitaries” in the presentations.

“To be a good partner you have to follow instructions, so we did so,” he said.

That didn’t stop Tokyo and Madrid from showing videos of the Japanese and Spanish prime ministers and Rio from screening a message from the Brazilian president.

As with all U.S. bids, the Olympics in Chicago would not be underwritten by the federal government. Bid leaders told the IOC they have their own secure public-private guarantees.

“The city of Chicago has put up guarantees of $500 million and the state of Illinois has legislation for $250 million,” Ryan said. “We are very comfortable that we can bring from the private sector additional resources that will take the guarantees up to the $2 billion range.”

Three members of the group “No Games Chicago,” which argues the games are bad for cities financially and can displace thousands of people, set up a stand outside the museum and distributed documents opposing the bid.

Mario Pescante, a senior Italian member on the IOC executive board, said the Chicago presentation was a step above previous U.S. bids.

“I have seen lots of presentations by American cities over the years,” he said. “This time it was different. They were more accessible and low-profile. It was important to stress the sports issues. In the past, it was more Hollywood style.”

While Chicago has long been viewed as a favorite, Ryan downplayed any front-runner suggestion.

“We don’t believe it is ours to lose,” he said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide