Chicago's Olympic Bid Flawed: IOC Report

Financial guarantee qualms and transportation are the biggest problems

By Phil Rogers
|  Wednesday, Sep 2, 2009  |  Updated 5:31 PM CDT
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Chicago's Olympic bid makes good financial sense and would have a positive impact on the Olympic legacy, but problems remain -- mostly concerning transportation, proposed Olympic facilities and financial guarantees, according to an International Olympic Committee analysis issued today.

Read the full report at Olympic.org.

The analysis, released about a month prior to the committee's formal decision, expressed clear frustration that the City had not gotten in line on the issue of a blanket financial guarantee, and looked askance at the city's transportation infrastructure, which would be required to move hundreds of thousands of visitors and athletes during a two week period.

An internal IOC poll found that the bid is supported by 67 percent of the people of Chicago, and 61 percent nationally, lower than the 2016 committee's own comparable study.

The IOC report also notes Chicago's maneuverings earlier this year to avoid signing a host city agreement. 

"Chicago 2016…has made a number of legal submissions to the IOC regarding the application of the Host City Contract which were not accepted by the IOC," it says.  "At the time of the visit, contrary to IOC requirements, Chicago 2016 had not provided a full guarantee covering any potential economic shortfall."  

When the guarantee requirement was revealed in June, it faced opposition from Chicago aldermen and many community groups.  Since that time, 2016 officials have been meeting with groups in every Chicago ward, and yesterday aldermen praised an insurance plan which promises a $1.4 billion insurance buffer before any city or state guarantee monies would be tapped.

Despite misgivings on the guarantee issue, the report calls Chicago's financial plan "well prepared, with a great amount of detail."  It says the city's 2016 plan is "ambitious, but achievable."  That same terminology is used to describe the city's revenue projections.

For the most part, Chicago's venue plans also fared well in the report.

The IOC report notes that four new permanent venues would be completed by 2015 and two by April of 2016, with the majority of temporary facilities to be completed no later than 2015.  The two venues slated for completion in 2016 "could present an increased risk with regard to the organization of test events."

While never openly critical, the report's most pointed comments concern the city's transportation plans. 

Calling Chicago the "major transportation hub of the Midwestern United States", the authors note that the city's compact venue plan provides a "good basis for an efficient transport system." 

But it notes that a plan to take cars off the road during the two weeks of the Games would more than double peak demands on the Metra commuter rail system, with Metra trains slated to take approximately 2/3 of the overall 2016 Olympic rail traffic. 

"Such an increase would be a major challenge," the report says, "given the magnitude of Chicago's general rail infrastructure and rolling stock update needs."

The IOC committee appeared impressed with Chicago's plan to build an Olympic Village on the site of the current Michael Reese Hospital, calling the Village plan "well designed and compact."    But it pointedly noted that at the time of the Commission's visit (last April), that a full financial guarantee for the Village had not been provided.

No conclusions are drawn, and no recommendations are offered.  For the most part the Olympic Committee's evaluation team merely recited the factual concepts behind the city's bid.

Full Coverage:  Chicago's 2016 Olympic Bid

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