08/28/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Leaving a Lasting Legacy

When we started our race for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games three years ago, we made a very important decision.

We determined that--whether we won the Games or not--our bid would produce important and long-lasting benefits for Chicago and its people.

We were particularly interested in making a contribution to better the lives of young people, especially kids from urban neighborhoods, helping keep them on a healthy and positive track.

So Chicago 2016 created World Sport Chicago, a sister organization whose mission is to involve youth in sport.

I'm more than a little proud to report that WSC not only has begun to function, it is going full tilt. It is touching the lives of literally thousands of Chicago kids--roughly 30,000 so far-- through sport introduction programs, gym classes, educational trips, coaching clinics and demonstrations and talks by Olympians and Paralympians.

Under a new program this summer, hundreds of kids were organized into neighborhood teams and got fundamental training in the sport of track and field and the opportunity to compete in meets. A few weeks ago, a team of 11 young boxers from Chicago traveled to Ireland to compete against an Irish team in matches in Cork and Galway.

World Sport Chicago is led by its dedicated executive vice president Scott Myers and by two Olympians who are active in promoting Chicago's bid for the Games. Chairman Bill Scherr won a bronze medal in wrestling at the 1988 Games in Seoul. And President Michael Conley won the gold in the triple jump in Barcelona in 1992 and the silver at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

All three are passionate about sport and about the power of sport to change lives.

Clearly there is a health benefit to what WSC is doing. Last month we read about the new report that ranks Illinois 10th in the country for the percentage of children between 10 and 17 who are overweight and obese.

But there also is the potential for great social gain stemming from World Sport Chicago's efforts. Besides being engaged in positive activities, kids are being exposed to the values of hard work, dedication, teamwork, fair play and respect for the rules--Olympic values.

And at the behest of Mayor Daley, the U.S. Conference of Mayors now is working with World Sport Chicago to expand this urban sport initiative to cities across the United States.

The privately-funded efforts of WSC will continue no matter the Oct. 2 selection of a winner for the 2016 Games by the International Olympic Committee. But if Chicago is chosen, the profile and programs of World Sport Chicago -along with its funding--are expected to grow.

The private foundation that was established in 1984 to manage Los Angeles' share of the surplus from that city's Games has put $185 million into programs that have benefited more than 2 million children throughout Southern California. The organization just celebrated its 25th anniversary.

We hope to invest that much--and more--in kids if Chicago wins the Games.