U.S. Olympic Group Visits L.A. and Chicago In a contest between the nation's second- and third-largest cities, Los Angeles and Chicago are vying to host the Olympic Games in 2016. The U.S. Olympic Committee will decide in April which city gets to represent the United States' bid to bring the games back to America.
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U.S. Olympic Group Visits L.A. and Chicago

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U.S. Olympic Group Visits L.A. and Chicago

U.S. Olympic Group Visits L.A. and Chicago

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris. And now a story about sibling rivalry. Los Angeles and Chicago have been squabbling for years over the right to claim the title Second City. Now, they're duking it out over another prized title: the chance to vie for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Now mind you at this point, they're not fighting for the right to host the games, but rather the right to compete against international heavyweights such as Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Rome.

The final decision between the City of Big Shoulders and the City of Angels is expected in mid-April. But we thought, why wait? And so right now, we're having our own early, no-holds-barred smackdown. Or maybe we should call it a debate.

(Soundbite of a bell ringing)

NORRIS: In one corner, Patt Morrison will argue why L.A. should get the okay. She's a talk-show host and a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Welcome, Patt.

Ms. PATT MORRISON (Talk-show Host; Columnist, Los Angeles Times): Thank you.

NORRIS: And blowing in from the Windy City, commentator and comedian Aaron Freeman. Thanks for joining us, Aaron.

(Soundbite of blowing sound)

NORRIS: Ooh, thank you.

Mr. AARON FREEMAN (Commentator, Comedian): Glad to be here.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Okay, here are the ground rules. This is a clean bout. No hissing, no spitting - certainly, no swearing. You will each get 40 seconds to give it your best shot, and then you'll each get a brief second rebuttal round. And not that I need to say this, but you both need to wait your turn. No talking over each other. Understand the rules?

Mr. FREEMAN: Yes 'em.

Ms. MORRISON: Yup.

NORRIS: Okay, let's get started. I'm going to go to Chicago first, since Los Angeles has actually hosted the Olympic games on two previous occasions. So Aaron Freeman, you will have 40 seconds, 40 seconds, only 40 seconds to tell us why Chicago should get the right to compete for the 2016 games. Ready?

Mr. FREEMAN: Ready.

NORRIS: Go.

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of bell)

Mr. FREEMAN: Chicago should get the games because in 2016, Chicago is going to need these games. In 2016, Mayor Daley will be in the middle of, I think, his 30th term as mayor. He's going to be so old, he'll be like Stephen Hawking, able to move only a single finger and use that to shove contracts to his friends and relatives. So we're going to all be really depressed.

Further, in 2016, President Obama will be at the end of his second term, with Chelsea Clinton the only viable alternative to him, so Chicagoans are going to be in a very, very sad and depressed state, and through it all, the Cubs are still going to stink.

So simple fairness, simple justice requires that we get the games because we need them.

NORRIS: Oh, with seconds to spare. Thank you, Aaron.

Mr. FREEMAN: Oh, you're welcome. I thought I hit it 40 exactly, actually.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Okay. I think your clock might be a little bit fast, but you can shake it off. Wait for that rebuttal round. We're going to go now to Patt Morrison. Please, Patt, give us L.A.'s best pitch in 40 seconds. Are you ready?

Ms. MORRISON: I'm ready.

NORRIS: Ready, set, go.

(Soundbite of bell)

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. MORRISON: Chicago, leave it to the pros. L.A. has hosted two Olympics, including the first one ever to make money, and what's more American than that? The Olympics are about amateur athletics. Chicago is a pro-team town. L.A. kicked out its NFL team. We get by with UCLA and USC. Now speaking of which, John Wayne played football at USC, which leads me to the next reason to host the Olympics: Hollywood, baby.

Following the paparazzis, following the celebrities is practically a sport itself. We have the studios, we have the stars. Ebert and Roeper wouldn't have a show if it weren't for Los Angeles and Hollywood. And don't forget the beaches. Did I sleep through "Baywatch: Lake Michigan"? I don't think so. The facilities are all here. We're ready for it. As for Soldier Field, I think the soldier it was named for: Ulysses S. Grant.

NORRIS: And I think you're done. I think we also have a competition here. Good going. Now we move on to the rebuttal round. Twenty seconds each. First, Aaron Freeman - ready, set, go.

(Soundbite of bell ringing)

Mr. FREEMAN: Well, Patt, I'm glad that you mentioned about the amateur town. Chicago does have pro teams, but our pros play like amateurs, so I think we have that nailed down. And further, L.A. doesn't need this. You guys got Beckham. In 2016, Beckham's probably going to be governor of California. So once again, fairness requires that we get it.

NORRIS: And fairness requires that you now get 20 seconds, Patt. Ready, set, go.

Ms. MORRISON: Well, I think the pity Olympics isn't exactly what the IOC has in mind. David Beckham, lame or whole, is going to be a terrific draw, even if he's governor of California. There are just so many reasons to bring it back to L.A., which knows how to do it. Even shopping - boutiques famous the world over. Chicago: Marshall Fields is now a Macy's, folks.

(Soundbite of bell ringing)

NORRIS: Okay, thanks to both of you. You're in separate cities, so I can't get you to shake hands. Maybe you can blow air kisses across the country or something like that.

(Soundbite of kissing sounds)

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Thanks to both of you. That was Patt Morrison. She writes a column for the Los Angeles Times, and she joined us from member station KPCC, where she hosts a show. And from Chicago, we were joined by Aaron Freeman, Chicago resident, self-described sports nut and commentator for ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

Now that was great, but we still have no clear winner, so we're going to go now to Chicago Tribune Olympic sportswriter Philip Hersh, and we should say that Mr. Hersh lives and works in Chicago, but we're trusting you, Mr. Hersh, to be a neutral party as a journalist who's actually covering the selection process. So, so glad you're with us.

Mr. PHILIP HERSH (Olympic Sportswriter, Chicago Tribune): Well, thank you very much. As I've told the Chicago people, I'm not supporting the bid. I'm reporting the bid.

NORRIS: Well, that's perfect. That's exactly what we need. That's the perspective that we need for this conversation. Now, you've been following the tour by the USOC officials: L.A. last week, Chicago this week. First, before we begin, based on what you just heard from Patt Morrison and from Aaron Freeman, who do you think made the best case?

Mr. HERSH: Well, I don't think that either made a particularly compelling case, so there we are. I'm just joking. I think that they both made good points. I think Aaron's issue that Chicago will need this in 2016 out of fairness may not be exactly the right approach to take, but I think that some of the points that Patt made were a little bit overblown.

NORRIS: Now based on what you actually know about the selection process and what you've been witnessing and I guess with continue to witness while the USOC is in Chicago this week, what are the major challenges?

Mr. HERSH: Well, the number-one issue: Is three times the charm, or is three times one too many? A lot of people to whom I've spoken, International Olympic Committee members, think that - they don't really want to give the games back to a U.S. city for the third time. Our country is so big that if it's going to the United States, it might not be a good idea. That's one.

Chicago's big issue is convincing the U.S. Olympic Committee that it can bring off a $366 million Olympic stadium and a privately developed $1.1 billion Olympic village. Neither of those facilities exist. They're both huge projects. Those facilities both exist in Los Angeles. That reduces the risk for Los Angeles, increases the risk for Chicago.

NORRIS: Philip, I think it's time to say goodbye, but just briefly before I let you go, the USOC is being wooed by some impressive suitors here. Any idea how they will ultimately choose a winner?

Mr. HERSH: They claim that they're going to choose a winner in the same way the International Olympic Committee does, based on the evidence from an evaluation commission. This is a process that has been changed dramatically since the way it was done in the past, where cities just kind of pitched their hat into the ring, and Lord knows what happened, and all of a sudden one got selected. They claim it's going to be a much more objective set of criteria applied. The U.S. Olympic Committee needs an Olympic games back in the United States as a source of revenue, so they want to have a city out there that stands a chance internationally.

NORRIS: And what's your gut tell you right now?

Mr. HERSH: My gut tells me right now that the Chicago bid is probably a little bit better on paper, but a lot of it is on paper.

NORRIS: Philip Hersh, thanks so much for talking to us.

Mr. HERSH: It's been my pleasure.

NORRIS: Philip Hersh covers Olympic sports for the Chicago Tribune. Thanks.

Mr. HERSH: Thank you.

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