Red Carpet, Big Guns Rolled Out for Olympics Officials

Tuesday, Jul 21, 2009  |  Updated 3:58 PM CDT
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President Assures IOC That It's Found Perfect Host City

AP

Oprah Winfrey arrives at the Art Institute of Chicago for Monday night's dinner in honor of the IOC's Evaluation Committee.

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IOC Olympic Dinner

Big name celebrities wine and dine with the International Olympic Committee hoping to convince ther vote to Chicago.
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Oprah Winfrey walked a red carpet for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid Monday night, stopping to talk with a wall of reporters, Hollywood-style, before heading into a gala for visiting international Olympics officials at the Art Institute of Chicago.

"With a nod to about 40 anti-Olympics protesters chanting on the other side of Columbus Drive, the queen of talk, arriving a fashionable 30 minutes late, according to the Chicago Tribune, said a Chicago Olympics "is going to be enormous. I don't understand what they are complaining about. They will be good for everyone."

Inside, members of the IOC were greeted by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and groups of children chanting, "Chicago! Chicago!" as they arrived for a dinner at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Early in the day, the second full day of technical presentations, the committee covered topics ranging from legal issues to the marketing of the Games, and organizers of Chicago's bid pulled out the heaviest of federal hitters -- Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and top presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett -- to make their case that the White House will be intimately involved if the city is awarded the games.

Jarrett told members of an International Olympic Committee inspection team that the White House would set up an office to provide support for the games and oversee a host of federal agencies, according to Chicago 2016 President Lori Healey.

That office "would be led by Ms. Jarrett herself," Healey said.

And in a short video, Clinton said the State Department will work to "ensure that if the city is selected, all the members of the Olympic family can gain entry into the country in a streamlined and expedited process."

Organizers said such support by the highest levels of the federal government before the IOC has made its selection is unprecedented.

It was perhaps not surprising that the IOC heard from both Jarrett and Clinton on Monday. That was also the day Chicago organizers assured the IOC that its financial plan was solid, that despite the perilous economic times in the world, it can pay for and host successful games.

Also on Monday night's guest list of about 120 people were U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Gov. Patrick Quinn; former House Speaker Dennis Hastert; Olympians Nadia Comaneci, Bart Conner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee; diplomats from a wide range of countries; and members of some of Chicago's wealthiest families, including J.B. Pritzker.

Organizers said they told the IOC team that Chicago's plan is virtually unchanged from what it outlined in the bid book it presented to the IOC in February.

Under the plan, the price tag for the games would be $4.8 billion. That includes $976 million for the Olympic Village and $397 million for the Olympic Stadium. Organizers said they told the IOC that they're confident their projected costs are accurate.

They also talked about the bid's financial safety net, which includes a $450 million "rainy day fund," as much as $375 million in IOC cancellation insurance, another $500 million in insurance coverage -- and a "last-resort" $500 million guarantee of taxpayer money from the city.

Organizers said they did discuss something that wasn't in the bid book -- last month's decision by Illinois legislators to increase the state's financial guarantee from $150 million to $250 million. A bill that includes the funding now awaits Gov. Pat Quinn's signature.

"We hope that these (guarantees) will provide security the IOC is seeking," Healey said. "But we believe that this money will never have to be touched."

Healey also said organizers offered other assurances, including agreements that guarantee nearly 78,000 hotel rooms at the time of the games, as well as a no-strike pledge that will be in effect.

Robert Ludwig, chief financial officer of Chicago 2016, said organizers stressed to the IOC team that all estimates about revenues and licensing fees were conservative and the money generated could be substantially higher.

And Healey, addressing concerns the IOC might have that the city could not deliver the games during these economic times, said she and others told the team that Chicago's economy is diverse, meaning it can better weather any economic storm.

Further, she said, "significant construction" would not begin until 2012, meaning that the bid could take advantage of what are expected to be improving economic conditions in the United States and around the world.

Also Monday, organizers hammered on history, telling the IOC team that the city's commitment to the environment and accessibility emerged long before its push for the games.

Organizers noted they are not allowed to contrast what competing bid cities Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid are doing, but stressed during a media briefing that they're highlighting Chicago's leadership in both areas.

IOC inspectors learned that the city dates its environmental efforts back a century to architect and planner Daniel Burnham, whose 1909 master plan called for an entirely open and accessible lakefront. Organizers then fast-forwarded to Daley, who they called a longtime proponent of green construction, rooftop gardens and other environmental initiatives.

"Mayor Daley is proving that big cities around the world can truly exist in harmony with nature," Suzanne Malec-McKenna, commissioner with the city's Department of Environment, told the briefing.

Chicago is the first stop on the IOC inspection tour and as organizers in other cities will certainly do, Chicago's touted numerous innovations.

But organizers also acknowledged a lot of details haven't been worked out.

"The renewable energy we would use has not been determined," because the games are years away, said Robert Accarino, the bid's director of environment.

Although it remains unknown exactly how IOC members are responding to Chicago's presentation -- members are not talking to the media until Tuesday and organizers have declined to discuss what questions they're asking -- Accarino gave one small hint about their possible concerns.

He suggested Chicago 2016 had to dispel misconceptions about the Chicago's air quality that he said were based on outdated IOC research.

"We provided detailed information about the 10-year history of air quality and projections of air quality to 2016," he said.

Chicago's accessibility took center stage during a Paralympic Games presentation.

"Because of the commitment to accessibility features, there is very little that needs to be done to the city itself," said Linda Mastandrea, Chicago 2016's Director of Paralympic Sport and Accessibility.

Mastandrea said she told the IOC that the Paralympic Games budget is $188 million -- double that of the Atlanta Games of 1996.

There was even an out-of-state voice, that of Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, to explain cross country cycling events, which would be held in that state's southwestern rolling hills.

"Frankly, they needed to find some hills," Doyle said, offering up the services of the bicycle-intensive areas surrounding the state capital in Madison.

"It is my understanding from the people who designed this course, that it would be one of the most challenging, if not the most challenging course, in the history of the Olympics," Doyle said.

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