Huffpost Chicago

Chicago Olympics Bid Dowmplays Blagojevich Scandal

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ST. LOUIS - The chief executive of a campaign to bring the Olympics to Chicago in 2016 doesn't think the controversy surrounding the Illinois governor should hurt the city's chances of winning the bid.

Patrick Ryan of Chicago 2016 was in St. Louis on Monday to discuss the roles that other Midwestern cities - St. Louis, Milwaukee, Indianapolis among them - could play if Chicago is selected for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Ryan said Gov. Rod Blagojevich has "not really been involved" with the Olympic bid. He said the bid is associated internationally with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and President Barack Obama, not the governor.

"Mayor Daley has been very engaged, and they know Mayor Daley and they like Mayor Daley," Ryan said. "We've not had any real significant questioning about the role of the governor."

The International Olympic Committee is considering Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo as other cities that could host the 2016 games. A decision will be made in October. Chicago's bid is privately funded.

The Illinois Senate's impeachment trial began Monday with the governor skipping the trial and making television appearances. The trial will determine whether Blagojevich becomes the first Illinois governor to be impeached or ousted.

Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9, accused of scheming to benefit from his office to pick Obama's replacement in the Senate. He was impeached by the House earlier this month on additional charges of circumventing hiring laws and defying decisions by the General Assembly. A two-thirds majority of the Senate could convict him at trial and throw him out of office.

Ryan said that from an international standpoint, Chicago is better known than Illinois, "and people don't necessarily understand our state system as well, so when they think of the U.S. they think more of cities."

"Therefore, I think they're thinking Chicago; they're thinking Mayor Daley, and they're very much thinking President Barack Obama," Ryan said.

St. Louis, host of the 1904 Olympics, could host preliminary events such as early soccer matches, Ryan said.

The region also would be an ideal place for athletes to train for a few weeks before the games, a place where athletes could acclimate themselves to a climate similar to Chicago's.
Ryan said some sports federations want to play early games in cities away from the central Olympics city as part of an effort to include more communities and reach more spectators.

St. Louis Sports Commission president Frank Viverito said he's interested in additional opportunities for the city, even in the years before the 2016 games. Some of those might include Olympic trials, team expositions and the involvement of many of the region's athletic facilities, professional venues and those on university campuses.

While there are no guarantees Chicago would get the games, St. Louis should be prepared, too. "You don't want to jinx anything, but you want to be ready," Viverito said.