Report Questions Finances Of Chicago's Olympic Bid

Patrick Ryan i

Patrick Ryan, head of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics, speaks at a news conference in Chicago in June. Wednesday, he said the Chicago planning group could address concerns from the International Olympic Committee about the finances of its bid. Rex Arbogast/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Rex Arbogast/AP
Patrick Ryan

Patrick Ryan, head of Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics, speaks at a news conference in Chicago in June. Wednesday, he said the Chicago planning group could address concerns from the International Olympic Committee about the finances of its bid.

Rex Arbogast/AP

Show us the money. That's essentially what an International Olympic Committee report says about Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The report, released Wednesday, assesses the bids of four cities vying to host the 2016 games — Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. Of those cities, only Chicago's bid fails to offer a "full financing guarantee," the IOC report said.

It characterizes Chicago's sponsorship fundraising goal of $1.83 billion, the biggest among the bidding cities, as "ambitious but achievable" given the commitment of Chicago businesses. But it also singles out the bid for its failure to fully guarantee no financial risk for the IOC.

Money is a recurrent theme in the review of Chicago's bid. The report's summary notes that Chicago intends to stage an Olympics "without the need for public investment in major permanent venues."

Chicago bidders offered a pledge to cover up to $750 million of any post-Olympic debt, but the report rejects that offer outright, noting that Chicago would be held to the same requirement expected of other host cities.

"As they have raised issues, there's nothing we cannot or have not resolved," said Patrick Ryan, CEO of Chicago 2016. He said the city was "in the final stage of securing the necessary governmental approval to sign the standard Host City [financing] Agreement."

Ryan said he has worked out a plan that provides a full commitment from the city of Chicago by purchasing insurance that would protect city taxpayers in the event of a budget deficit.

"We are very pleased with the report," he said. "It states that Chicago is truly ready to organize and stage the 2016 games and our vision and overall concept for hosting the games will deliver a spectacular sport experience to the athletes of the world."

The other bidding cities did not escape the IOC's concern. Tokyo was dinged for relatively low public support and venues described as existing but not actually built. Madrid organizers seemed disorganized, according to the report, and provided presentations and documentation that "varied in quality." Rio has "challenges" with crime, insufficient hotel rooms and transportation.

But the report does not rate or rank the field of Olympic hopefuls. It concludes that "each of these cities could organize the 2016 Games" but adds that "there are risks and opportunities inherent to each."

The report was written by an IOC panel that visited each city and considered bidding presentations and documents. Individual IOC members are not permitted to visit bidding cities themselves. A bribery scandal involving Salt Lake City's successful pursuit of the 2002 Winter Olympics prompted rules that restrict direct contact between IOC members and cities seeking the games.

IOC members consider all kinds of criteria when voting for host cities. South America has never hosted an Olympics, so a Rio bid may appeal to some. Asia is an important and growing market for Olympic sports and a return to Tokyo could be tempting. Madrid has the strongest public support, according to an IOC survey, which could translate into huge and enthusiastic crowds at Olympic venues. A Chicago Olympics would very likely increase the value of the American Olympics television contract, which is one of the biggest sources of Olympic revenue.

The IOC assessment is designed to inform IOC members about the technical capabilities of each bidding city. Olympic boosters from each city will have an opportunity to address any concerns mentioned in the report at an IOC meeting Oct. 2 in Copenhagen. IOC members will then vote, selecting the host city for the 2016 Olympics.

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