Huffpost Chicago

IOC Panel Calls Chicago A 'Vibrant' City After Evaluating Olympic Bid

Posted: Updated:

CHICAGO — The leader of the International Olympic Committee's inspection team said members were "most impressed" by Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Games and the strong support they saw from the White House, City Hall and corporate boardrooms.

"We are leaving with a very strong impression that the bid is a strong one," Nawal el Moutawakel, chairwoman of the IOC's evaluation commission, said Tuesday afternoon.

But while offering a glowing assessment of Chicago as a "vibrant" city, el Moutawakel did not tip the commission's hand about the city's pitch to host the games, the bid's $4.8 billion price tag, and the financial guarantees Chicago officials have given.

"We have been given a lot of guarantees for the past days and all the guarantees have been thoroughly studied," she said, declining to elaborate.

While there have been a lot of questions surrounding all the bid cities' ability to pay for the games amid difficult economic times around the world, El Moutawakel did say she was impressed that Chicago's support for the bid remains strong.

"When you see the heavyweight business community that ... yesterday tried to convince us that they're, all of them, backing the Chicago bid, I think the crisis will not last forever," she said.

Chicago 2016 organizers went into the visit hoping to impress the commission with its plan to put on a compact games, one that would put most of the events along the lakefront, and el Moutawakel's comments suggest they succeeded.

"We felt that the concept of the whole Olympic Games within the city of Chicago is very compact and the distance between the village is reasonable, and I don't think there will be any problems," she said.

Also, she indicated the bid hit the right note with its plan to build a temporary Olympic Stadium on the South Side _ saying it's in sync with the IOC's philosophy that cities should not build facilities they can't use later.

Chicago 2016 leader Pat Ryan said commission members could see for themselves what organizers mean when they say things like their plan for the village will put 90 percent of the athletes within 15 minutes of the places they compete and train.

Ryan said they also saw the events are not only close to each other, but close to such cultural attractions as the Field Museum and Millennium Park.

"They could see that ... a family could go to Northerly Island and watch beach volleyball and then walk over to the Shedd Aquarium and see the beluga whales, or people could watch rowing and then with their family walk on up, get onto the bridge into the iconic Art Institute of Chicago," he said.

Mayor Richard Daley also said commissioners now know how committed the federal government is to Chicago's bid. In the last few days they've seen videos in which President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced their support, and Valerie Jarrett, a top Obama adviser, did the same when she met with commissioners.

"The president's excited, his cabinet is excited about bringing the Olympics back to the United States of America," Daley said.

El Moutawakel and Gilbert Felli, the IOC's executive director, agreed the commission was also impressed by Daley.

And while they did not elaborate, supporters of the bid say Daley may be one of the biggest selling points of all for the simple reason that hanging over all the promises cities make is the question of whether they can deliver.

In Daley, the United States Olympic Committee believes it has a leader who can do just that.

"This is one of the strongest and most accomplished mayors in America," said Darryl Seibel, USOC spokesman, who said Daley's record, huge popularity and the belief that he will be mayor for a while were crucial to Chicago's selection as the country's bid city. "He is a person who you can depend on to get things done."

Another message organizers wanted to send the IOC was that the bid has widespread support. Throughout the IOC's stay there were very few protesters, and though the commissioners met with some on Tuesday, organizers said that was not unusual and they do that in every city they visit.

Perhaps as significant is that the commissioners were greeted by members of the City Council, whose wards on the South Side contain mostly minority residents. Their message was simple: Their constituents are excited about how the games might benefit by giving them both jobs and, after the games leave, affordable housing.

The IOC inspectors are now going to visit competing cities, Tokyo, then Rio de Janeiro and finally Madrid.