Olympic Bid Becomes Political Leverage

Alderman proposes ordinance to benefit minorities

There are still 10 months to go before Chicago learns if the city will host the 2016 Olympic Games, but some aldermen have a list of demands they want met before that decision is made.

Members from the International Olympic Committee will visit Chicago in April, five months before the host city is chosen, and Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) suggested that noisy community demonstrations during that visit would be "inevitable" if her constituent concerns aren't met.

Among them, a requirement that 30 percent of the apartments in the proposed Olympic Village be set aside for low-income residents and 50 percent of construction contracts be awarded to minority businesses.

The ordinance will be introduced at a City Council meeting next week, Preckwinkle said.

"We have to have a deliberate strategic approach to this. This just can't be done, you know, 'willy nilly,'" Patricia Dowell (3rd) added.

Olympic planners insist they are talking to community groups, but they say they want to make sure all residents reap the benefits the Olympics would bring, not just those in certain neighborhoods.

"We've got a schedule over the next several weeks working with all of the aldermen and all of the community groups across the city to begin discussions and hammer out a framework that works for everyone across the city," Chicago 2016 spokeswoman Lori Healey said.

Preckwinkle said she sees her ordinance as a beginning for negotiations which, she concedes, will include a fair amount of give and take.

Communities for an Equitable Olympics 2016, the coalition that has worked for the benefits agreement, believes the agreement is needed to prevent problems that occurred in other cities, such as poor residents in Atlanta being uprooted for the 1996 Games, the Chicago Tribune reported.

"The IOC will know if we're not happy when they come," Community Organizer Shannon Bennett said.

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