U.S. Olympic Officials Welcomed To Chicago

Tuesday, March 6th 2007, 10:52 am
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama turned up the star power Tuesday, lending his support to Chicago's bid to land the 2016 Summer Olympics.

A videotaped message from the Illinois senator greeted an 11-member U.S. Olympic Committee evaluation team when it arrived at Soldier Field for an all-day session.

``I can think of no better place to hold the 2016 Games than in this most American of America's cities,'' Obama said.

Chicago is vying with Los Angeles for the chance to be the U.S. candidate. The evaluation team visited Los Angeles last week.

In Chicago, team members will spend two days meeting with the city's Olympic officials and inspecting existing venues and sites where new ones would be built if the city is selected in April by the USOC.

The International Olympic Committee will select the Olympic host in 2009. Other expected bidders are Madrid, Spain; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Rome; and Tokyo.

Chicago leaders hope this week's visit will address concerns about the city having to build many of its Olympic sites, including a proposed temporary stadium and an Olympic Village.

Chicago plans to build a $366 million, 80,000-seat stadium in a South Side park and a $1.1 billion lakefront athletes' village.

Olympic officials got a look at one venue Tuesday because they are 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 aboard a Chicago Transit Authority hybrid bus.

Waiting outside to greet them were Mayor Richard M. Daley and Patrick Ryan, the leader of the city's bid, before the team members were ushered into a meeting room at the stadium.

There, Daley touted the city's business community, which already has raised millions of dollars in the effort and will have to pony up more if the city wins the U.S. bid and then is awarded the Olympics.

``The Chicago business community is four square behind our bid for the Olympic Games,'' Daley said.

An all-out campaign of Olympic cheer continued through Chicago this week, as illuminated buildings dotting the city's skyline displayed Olympic messages and shirts bearing the city's slogan _ ``Chicago 2016 _ Stir The Soul'' _ hit stores at $30 each.

Los Angeles is vying for its third Summer Olympics, having been the 1932 and 1984 host. Organizers in Los Angeles have touted the city's ability to hold a virtually ready-made games, since many Olympic structures already are in place.