Chicago Shows Its Olympic Face To USOC Visitors

Wednesday, March 7th 2007, 5:55 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ After spending a day inside quizzing Chicago officials about their bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, a U.S. Olympic Committee inspection team gets to explore the city to see where some of the events would be held.

``I think they're very impressed with Chicago,'' the city's bid leader, businessman Patrick Ryan, said Tuesday before hosting a first-day wrap-up dinner at Chicago's Art Institute.

Wednesday's tour will include existing venues and proposed sites where others would be built.

Tuesday's bid-review session kicked off two days of events in which the city is strutting its stuff in an attempt to convince the USOC that Chicago _ not Los Angeles _ should be the American bidder.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama provided star power, lending his support in a videotaped message to the 11-member inspection team.

``Chicago is more than just a city in the middle of America, Chicago is the heart of America,'' the Illinois senator said.

The USOC will decide in April whether Chicago or Los Angeles will get to make a bid. Officials visited Los Angeles last week.

The International Olympic Committee won't select the Olympic host until 2009. Other expected bidders include Madrid, Spain; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Rome; and Tokyo.

Chicago's campaign to show its Olympic spirit is in full swing. The city's nighttime skyline is lit with Olympic messages on buildings and shirts bearing the city's slogan _ ``Chicago 2016 _ Stir The Soul'' _ are in stores.

Ryan said a key issue for USOC officials was that the city chosen as the eventual American bidder be able to attract the international support needed to lure the Games.

``There was good dialogue on that. ... I think we handled that well,'' he said.

Los Angeles is vying for its third Summer Olympics, having been the 1932 and 1984 host.

Earlier Tuesday, Bob Berland, who won a silver medal in judo at the 1984 Olympics, said Chicago's bid committee was well prepared.

``We haven't been caught off guard because we've done our homework,'' said Berland, co-chair of the committee's athlete advisory group.

Business and civic leaders already have raised more than $30 million to finance Chicago's Olympic effort and would have to pony up more if the city wins the U.S. bid and then is awarded the games.

``The Chicago business community is four square behind our bid for the Olympic Games,'' Mayor Richard M. Daley said in welcoming the USOC.

Chicago faces questions about its readiness. Unlike Los Angeles, the city would have to build many Olympic sites, including a stadium and an Olympic Village. But Chicago insists its Olympics would be concentrated mostly around the downtown lakefront, making it easier to get around compared to the sprawl of Los Angeles.

Chicago plans to build a $366 million, 80,000-seat temporary stadium in a South Side park and a $1.1 billion lakefront athletes village. Ryan said plans for the stadium would be discussed Wednesday.

Olympic officials got a look at one venue Tuesday because they were meeting at Soldier Field, which would host the soccer competition. The inspection team arrived at the lakefront stadium sporting black evaluation-team parkas on a blustery, frigid morning.

The team camped out in a presentation room so it could spend the day reviewing the city's bid. Soldier Field was ready with the field adorned with the city's signature Olympic logo _ a torch with a flame in the shape of a skyline. Organizers also debuted a 3 1/2-minute promotional film that could be used to market Chicago's bid to an international audience.