Chicago Shows Its Olympic Face to USOC

The Associated Press
Tuesday, March 6, 2007; 10:25 PM

CHICAGO -- The city isn't just selling sports venues, a stadium and an athletes' village to the U.S. Olympic Committee. It's also selling the very idea of Chicago _ a Midwestern city once known for its famous gangsters _ as a world-class destination to host a global sporting event.

Former Olympian Bob Berland said that's not a tough task for the Chicago bid committee, which wraps up two days of meetings with an 11-member U.S. Olympic Committee inspection team Wednesday.

"I think Chicago is a very, very easy story to tell. We're a Cinderella story. We really are," said Berland, a 1984 silver medalist in judo who is co-chairman of the bid committee's athlete advisory group.

The city's Olympic boosters will have to wait until April 14 to see how they did. That's when the USOC is expected to choose between Chicago and Los Angeles as the American bidder for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee won't select the host until 2009. Other expected bidders include Madrid, Spain; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Rome; and Tokyo.

A big part of Chicago's sell-job is the philanthropic power of its business community, which already has raised $30 million toward the effort and would have to pony up more if the city wins the U.S. bid and then is awarded the games.

"I think they're very impressed with Chicago," the city's bid leader, businessman Patrick Ryan, said before hosting the team at a first-day wrap-up dinner at Chicago's Art Institute.

Ryan said a key issue for USOC officials was the city chosen as the American bidder be able to attract the international support needed to lure the Games.

"There was good dialogue on that. ... I think we handled that well," he said.

Besides the nuts-and-bolts of the venues in its bid, Chicago also is relying on its multicultural history to be a lure, along with its sports enthusiasm and cultural offerings.

But there's something even more basic Mayor Richard M. Daley says the city has to offer.

"Our residents are friendly," he told inspection team members Tuesday as he welcomed them to a daylong meeting at Soldier Field _ the home of the Chicago Bears _ where they would dissect and study the city's bid.

Chicago officials weren't shy about turning up the star power for the event with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama lending his support in a videotaped message to the inspection team.

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