In Denver, Chicago Says “Choose Us”

Funding formula could jeopardize Chicago's bid

Chicago 2016 officials braved a blizzard in Denver on Thursday to make a late-inning sales pitch against their other Olympic rivals.

"We've got a plan that is really a very simple plan," said Chicago 2016 vice-president Doug Arnot. "A very responsible plan financially, which I think is very important in these particular times."

All four bid cities stressed finances and compact venues. Rio emphasized their 2007 PanAm Games experience, and the sports facilities which are already in place. Madrid promised "the safest choice."

"We have more than 77 percent of the venues in place," said Madrid 2016's Mercedes Coghen, "Which means we don't have to invest a lot to finalize our proposal for 2016."

Coghen said surveys indicate over 92 percent of the Spanish people favor the games.

"Be confident that we are going to be a great companion in the weeks to come. We love the games, and we want it very much!"

Lurking at the Sport Accord conference in Denver is a simmering dispute over Olympic funding. This week, the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations passed a resolution calling for an end to the U.S.O.C.'s current contract which gives the U.S. 20 percent of the I.O.C.'s worldwide sponsorship revenue, the same as all other Olympic committees combined -- and over 12 percent of the television revenue.

"The way they treat us, there's no respect, no respect at all!" said Hein Verbruggen, the former chief of the International Cycling Union. "It's infuriating!"

Some fear the lingering animosity over the funding formula could jeopardize Chicago's chances, if not resolved. But as negotiations continue toward a new agreement, Chicago 2016 officials said they were confident the issues could remain separate.

"We have confidence that it's moving in the right direction," Arnot said. "Now, whether that resolution comes before or after the vote (on the 2016 host city) may be in question."

I.O.C. member Juan Antonio Samaranch, Jr. of Spain, said he believes most of his colleagues view the funding dispute and the 2016 decision separately.

"The solution will not be in place before October," Samaranch said, referring to the Oct.2 decision date for the 2016 Games. "I think that is going to keep this issue outside the race for the 2016 bidding."

Samaranch, who backs his nation's Madrid bid, said he believes both sides are working to reach an agreement.

"The conversations have started again, and I think the atmosphere has relaxed a bit. All parties are working," he said.

Privately, Olympic insiders said they felt the funding issue and its chances of jeopardizing the Chicago bid were overblown. They noted the immense revenues which would be generated by Chicago games, which would benefit all Olympic nations. I.O.C. members traditionally have voted for the city they feel is in the best position to stage the Olympics. And in that regard, as one official noted, the financial decision would have "zero impact on readiness to host the games."

Tokyo 2016's president, Ichiri Kono, sidestepped that issue, saying he preferred to talk about his own nation's Olympic blueprint, entitled, "Setting the Stage for Heroes."

"The situation for the economies is up and down," said Kono. "We focus on our own bid!"

Kono pointed to the financial stability of the Tokyo plan.

"The city is very healthy," he said. "The city has already put aside $4 billion in the bank!"

Tokyo told the Sport Accord attendees 23 of their venues are already in place. And they emphasized a central Asian location, where 3 billion television viewers live within the prime-time TV footprint. Prime-time coverage is also a major selling point of a U.S., and thus, Chicago bid.

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