Chicago Touts Pricey Safety Net in 2016 Bid

Chicago touts $1B safety net for 2016 Olympics bid

Amid a worldwide economic crisis, Chicago touted its financial strength in the 2016 Olympic bid Friday with organizers saying they have at least a $1 billion safety net if the games exceed an estimated $4.8 billion price tag.

The Chicago book is 560 pages long, and was made available for public review online Friday morning.

"Our aspirations for welcoming the world to Chicago and the United States are represented in nearly 600 pages in this three-volume document," Chicago 2016 leader Patrick Ryan said.

Chicago organizers said their financial safety net 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 of Chicago.

Olympic games are notorious for going over budget. The 2012 Olympics in London will cost an estimated $16.5 billion, three times its original estimate.

Ryan said Olympic costs often rise when the scope and scale of venues change after a city gets the games, but he doesn't expect  that to happen in Chicago because he doesn't expect plans for a $397 million Olympic stadium and a $976 million lakefront Olympic
village to change.

Chicago's Olympic organizers instead predicted a $500 million operating profit on the games that would run from July 22 to Aug.
7. The paralympics would run from Aug. 17 to Aug. 28.

Still, the ongoing economic crisis has cast its shadow. Ryan has said the bid committee adjusted its surplus estimate from $725 million to $500 million because the sale price of the Olympic village to a real estate developer for mixed-use housing may not meet initial expectations.

But Ryan also said the committee's expectation of $246 million in private donations is realistic, suggesting the plan can outlast the recession.

"We have seven years to raise the funds," he said.

Chicago organizers are looking to collect $705 million from sales of 7.6 million tickets, as well as additional revenue from corporate suite and skybox sales. They're also counting on $240 million in private donations that include non-Olympics related naming rights for permanent structures or other building projects.

Rob Baade, an economics professor at Lake Forest College, is skeptical of Chicago 2016's revenue projections. He notes that studies of games in other cities have shown money pumped into the local economy is largely offset by decreased spending in the  weeks before and after the games.

Baade said both tourists and residents stay home or go elsewhere, anticipating higher prices everywhere from restaurants to hotels in the weeks surrounding the Olympics.

"Summertime is the peak tourist time (in Chicago) so you have to look at people who might ordinarily go to the city don't go because they don't want to deal with crowds and congestion," Baade said.

He also noted the Olympics mean more police on duty and increased government spending to handle a city teeming with visitors.

"That comes out of somebody's budget," he said.

Chicago is counting on the federal government to come up with the money, manpower and equipment needed for Olympics security
because it would be designated a national special security event. Organizers say the precedent was set at the games in Atlanta and
Salt Lake City, Utah.

Organizers also anticipate federal and state money for transportation infrastructure improvements. Olympic officials had identified transportation as an area Chicago had to address in its bid, and much to the disappointment of Chicago Transit Authority officials,  the bid does not include any investment in transit upgrades, depending instead on the existing system to transport Olympic visitors.

"Chicago has very good rail right now, it's just that it needs modernization," Ryan said Friday.

Ryan even argued a worldwide recession could actually help keep Chicago's Olympics cost in check.

"Clearly, as a result of the recession, a lot of construction costs have come down," Ryan said, pointing specifically to cement and steel prices.

The next major dates in Chicago's Olympics quest are April 4-7, when the IOC's evaluation commission is set to visit.

Organizers hope the IOC will be as impressed as the U.S. Olympic Committee seems to have been with a feature Chicagoans love to brag about: Lake Michigan. Chicago is emphasizing that most of its Olympic venues would be clustered along the sprawling lakefront.

"For the Olympic Games to be a success we have to recreate a certain magic, a certain celebration center," USOC international vice president Bob Ctvrtlik said at the time, "and the waterfront location, right on the lake, we felt could do that."

The authors of the bid point to the historic changes in American government with the election of President Barack Obama, and welcome the International Olympic Committee a chance to "align the interest of global sport ... with a new U.S. government." 

The president has made no secret of his support for Chicago's bid and while other cities vying for the games have downplayed his impact on the city's candidacy, they don't discount it.

"I would have preferred that in the moment of the decision that (President) Bush would have been in office since he's been so bad for the world," Spanish Sports Minister Jaime Lissavetsky said earlier this month.

In part, the Chicago document states that the vision for the 2016 Games is an extension of Mayor Richard Daley's desire to "inspire young people through education and empower them through sport."

The bid states further that Chicago's effort to get the Olympics reflects "a broader desire across the United States ... to reach out and renew friendships around the world." 

Chicago's Competition

Competeing for the Games against Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janiero, Chicago was the first city to submit its "bid book" last week.

Tokyo released for public review their final bid information for the 2016 Olympics early Friday morning, the first of the final four cities to do so.

Madrid was next, several hours later.

Madrid, which had set its sites on the Olympics for 2012, submitted a bid very much like its previous one, and points to the benefits to the city in its plan. The city is claiming that their's is the most affordable plan for the Games.

"Our concept for the Games combines physical and social regeneration, to influence and improve the lives of people. It will develop, improve the initiatives and planned infrastructures of the 2012 Games bid," states.

Tokyo touts its efficiency in its bid for the Games, promises an environmentally-sound approach to the development and execution of the venues and events, and voices a commitment to world peace.

The bid offers "the most compact, sustainable and financially-robust Olympic and Paralympic Games," the Tokyo Olympics 2016 stated.

"Tokyo 2016 is committed to contributing to the further development of the Olympic Movement in the 21st century by using sport for local and international development and and to promote world peace," the bid reads.

The fourth finalist, Rio de Janeiro, plans a press conference Friday afternoon in Brazil, but said it will not release the files globally until a Monday press conference in London.

A final decision by the International Olympic Committee is expected to be announced on Oct. 2.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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