Protests Coincide With IOC Visit

IOC tours Chicago, hears presentations until Tuesday

Chicago police officers made good on their promise to protest outside City Hall Thursday morning.

Shouting through a bullhorn, Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue said the city has been unfair in its dealings with the union, and cops deserve a contract.

The number of chanting officers growing to about 1,500 by the afternoon, according to the department's News Affairs.  Another report put the number at more than 3,000.

The FOP said that its members are not objecting to the Olympics in Chicago, but rather are upset with contract negotiations and the mayor's recent defense of Police Superintendent Jody Weis after the FOP gave the top cop a no-confidence vote last week.

That may be the case, but it’s still a snub at Mayor Richard Daley, who is busy hosting the International Olympic Committee’s evaluation team, here until early next week to grade the city on its bid for the 2016 Games.

Daley on Wednesday asked Chicago residents to show their support for the Games while the IOC is here, stating that hosting the Games could "transform the city."

"Few cities in the world receive the honor to host the Olympic Games," Daley said. "We are proud to represent the United States."

As the city ramped up for the IOC visit, members of a coalition of community groups, angry that the City Council failed to pass a community benefits ordinance prior to the IOC's arrival, vowed that committee members will "learn the truth" when they tour Chicago.

"There will be protests," said Shannon Bennett, spokesman for Communities for an Equitable Olympics 2016, Wednesday. "We're on the eve of the IOC arrival, and we're empty handed."

And at 5 p.m. Thursday, a group called "No Games Chicago" will gather at the Federal Plaza to protest the city's bid for the Games. The group contends that Chicago residents would be better served if money spent on the Olympics went towards new hospital, housing and improved schools.

General objections to the Games are outlined in an open letter to the IOC published in this week's Chicago Reader.

"I could fill a book with the reasons" to not bring the Games to Chicago, writer Ben Joravsky tells the committee.

In spite of the protests, Chicago 2016 CEO Pat Ryan said during a Wednesday press conference that he believed the IOC would be surprised if there weren’t protests in the city.

IOC Gauges City’s Bid

The first IOC members arrived at O'Hare International Airport at about noon and were whisked downtown to the hotel which will be their headquarters until next Tuesday.

And what will the IOC be looking for?

"The first thing is, how clean is the airport, and how well do the people take care of you? And we've been doing that all day long.  We've been whisking people in, getting their bags, getting them here to the airport," said Bob Ctvrtlik of the United States Olympic Committee.  "Next, they're going to start looking (at), OK, what does the venue plan look like?  I mean, technically, can these people host the Games -- which I feel pretty confident that we'll do a great job on that -- and after that, they're going to look (at), do these people really want the Games?  And that's where the public of Chicago, the people coming out, even if the weather is terrible, is really important."

Keep in mind that the team members visited London in 1995 during a snow storm, and visited a toxic brownfield in that city which ultimately became the site of their stadium.  London won that bid to host the 2012 Summer Games.

"There has to be a little bit of imagination on the part of the commission members, but it won't matter whether it's sunny, whether it's snowing.  We even heard there may be some sleet on the way.  They're here just to see the people, see the sights," Ctvrtlik said.  These are experienced professionals.  They know what they're looking at.  They can imagine where a stadium, what it will look like from the renderings, the schematics.  Also, our team's done a heck of a job building models, so it'll be pretty easy for them to see what Olympics in Chicago would be like."

They'll begin hearing Chicago's pitch Saturday in a series of 17 formal and very technical presentations. They will also take a tour of proposed venue sites during their visit.

"Receiving this bid isn't guaranteed," Daley cautioned on Wednesday. "We have made a strong case."

Daley sought once again to allay the fears of those who worry that a global recession is a bad time to seek such an ambitious goal, declaring that the Games would help to create thousands of jobs.

"Sure we're in a recession," he conceded. "But we are pursuing the bid because we know it won't be the same. We are pursuing the bid to reap the benefits of the better times to come."

And to those who site Chicago's well-known history of cost overruns on major projects the mayor declared, "Our plan is financially conservative, reasonable, and feasible."

"If you don't have vision, looking to the future, most cities will die," he added.

Chicago is the first stop on the tour of bid cities.

"We'd rather be first than last. We can help set the bar as high as we want to," Chicago 2016 chief executive officer Pat Ryan told the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board Tuesday.

Minorities Demand Written Promise

The City Council finance committee passed an ordinance Friday calling for 30 percent of Olympic contracting to go to minority firms, and 10 percent to women. The ordinance establishes a goal of setting aside 30 percent of the apartments in the Olympic Village for low income housing after the games.

But the organizers for the coalition that led the fight to get those assurances are angry that nothing has been signed, and that they still don't have a legally-binding agreement.

"We stand here a community of broken promises," said spokesman Denise Dixon. "Our mayor has sold off our city piece by piece. Now, is he going to sell out the people of Chicago?"

Ironically, the protesters concede the ordinance passed by the finance committee comes close to their goals, and is something they could live with.

"The numbers are close to what we wanted," said Bennett. "Our problem is with the process."

Asked if he was worried his group's demonstrations might give the IOC second thoughts about awarding the Olympics to Chicago, Bennett said, "What this mayor has not done, may cost them the games!"

The group says a poll taken in three neighborhoods which would be the location of Olympic venues, shows overwhelming support for legislation which would guarantee jobs and training to neighborhood residents.

The IOC inspection team will be in Chicago until early next week to grade the city on its bid.

Chicago is competing with Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Madrid to host the games. The IOC is scheduled to visit those cities and make their decision in October. 

Indiana Cares

Results of an unofficial survey of Northwest Indiana residents indicates that they see the possibility of the Olympics in Chicago as a good thing for their communities.

The chance of overflow crowds would be the most obvious financial boost to the area -- an estimated 60,000 hotel rooms would be required across the area, one study shows -- but an Indiana Post-Tribune columnist wrote that the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission sited the "cultural and humanitarian influence" of the Olympics on the area.

"This event would drag Northwest Indiana into the 21st century, even if it's done kicking and screaming," said Speros Batistatos, president of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority. "It would be the quintessential event for us to finally realize our interdependency to Chicago."

But the decision, for now, rests with the IOC. It must choose between Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janero. The decision is expected in October.

Michael Jordan Endorses Bid

One famous Chicagoan joined the chorus of support, as part of the latest film highlighting Chicago's Olympic ambitions.

"The Olympic spirit -- it's alive in Chicago," Michael Jordan declares at the end of the new film, entitled "Moments." The 2016 Committee will see the movie during their visit.

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