Chicago Has Its Eye On The Summer Olympic Prize

An evaluation team from the International Olympic Committee begins a six-day visit to Chicago on Thursday. The Windy City is vying to host the Summer Olympics in 2016.

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The Summer Olympics have not come to America since the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Now Chicago wants them back. Today an International Olympic Committee evaluation team begins a visit to Chicago. It'll be checking out the city's planned Olympic sites as it scrutinizes a bid to hold the Games in 2016. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

Mr. MICHAEL CONNELLY (Olympic Athlete): Chicago.

Unidentified Children: Chicago.

Mr. CONNELLY: 2016.

Unidentified Children: 2016.

Mr. CONNELLY: 2016.

Unidentified Children: 2016.

CHERYL CORLEY: Like any good athletic team, there's often a cheering squad for Chicago's Olympic bid - in this instance, track and field gold medalist Michael Connelly and a whole gymnasium of elementary school kids. Chicago is in the final four, up against some big contenders to host the Summer Olympics seven years from now. Instead of March Madness, call it Olympic Madness, as the city has been getting ready for this critical visit from the IOC Evaluation Commission.

Lori Healey is the president of the Chicago 2016 effort.

Ms. LORI HEALEY: Obviously we have a great story to tell about our plan to host the Games - how beautiful our city is, the diversity of our people, which is a significant advantage for us in talking about Chicago, because we are reflective of the IOC.

CORLEY: Three other cities hope to win the bid - Madrid, which almost won the 2012 Summer Games; Rio de Janeiro is trying to become the first South American city to host an Olympics; and Tokyo is presenting its first bid since hosting the Games in 1964.

To show that Chicago is not out of its league, a 2016 Chicago video says the city often surprises its visitors.

(Soundbite of video)

Unidentified Man: When they see the expansive blue waters of the lake, it could easily be mistaken for an ocean.

CORLEY: A number of the planned game venues, including the Olympic Village, will be clustered near Chicago's lake. In addition to touring venues, the evaluation commission will take part in 17 technical presentations. The cost of the bid - nearly $5 billion, financed mostly by the private sector. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley says the financing is sound and the city will benefit.

Mayor RICHARD DALEY (Democrat, Chicago): The 2016 Games would leave a lasting legacy in the form of affordable housing, athletic facilities, ensuring that the Olympic Games will have a strong physical presence in Chicago for generations to come.

CORLEY: Not everybody likes the idea of Chicago hosting the Olympics in 2016.

Mr. BOB QUELLOS: I'm Bob Quellos and I'm with No Games Chicago.

CORLEY: No Games Chicago plans to hold a protest rally later today in Chicago's Federal Plaza. Quellos says the city and state have large budget deficits, as do the Chicago public schools.

Mr. QUELLOS: And it seems like the priorities of this city should really be on actually figuring out how to make these things work and not dedicating its time and energy to basically a three-week party seven years from now.

CORLEY: Chicago police also plan to hold a protest rally over contract negotiations. 2016 organizers say they don't expect the demonstrations to disturb the bid, so they're asking Chicagoans to show community support while the IOC is in town. And in a new video, Olympian and former Chicago basketball star Michael Jordon has this message for the commission.

(Soundbite of video)

Mr. MICHAEL JORDON (Basketball Star): The Olympic spirit is alive in Chicago. We're ready.

CORLEY: An even bigger advantage: the backing of Chicagoan and President Barack Obama. He may even lobby IOC delegates when they vote in October to decide who will host the 2016 Games.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

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