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  • On the Scene: IOC Faces Chicago Weather Bluster


    A portion of the 200+ volunteers who stood in cold rain to give the IOC commission a perspective of the planned Olympic Stadium(ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    (ATR) Volunteers endured biting winds and rain to help show a team from the IOC the venues planned for the Chicago bid for the 2016 Olympics.

    The only day set aside for the 13-member commission to see the venue plan for the Chicago bid turned out to be a mostly cold, blustery Sunday, punctuated by bouts of spitting rain.

    More than 200 volunteers had to put up with the weather, forming a giant oval in soggy turf to mark the outline of the temporary Olympic Stadium that would be built at Washington Park on the south side of Chicago. They each clutched a staff with a flag from each of the 205 nations belonging to the Olympic Family.

    But once the IOC Commission made their drive by the park, the frigid volunteers were quickly dismissed.

    The tour, which began at 8 a.m., ended about 10 1/2 hours later. Most of the events were listed as "rain or shine up to hazardous conditions."

    Rather than shadowing the Evaluation Commission tour, the media had a "hurry up and wait tour." They intersected with the official tour in three locations - McCormick Place, Washington Park and the United Center -- and were given informational presentations on the buses.
    IOC Evaluation Commission chair Nawal Moutawakel and Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli meet Bob Berland, Olympian and Chicago 2016 emissary at one of the stops on the venue tour Sunday. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)

    Some EC members greeted members of the media they knew, but the media had no other contact.

    Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago 2016 President met the IOC team as they proceeded to McCormick Place to be called the Lake Michigan Sports Complex -- where Asian Chicagoans provided a traditional lion processional. Commission members also saw Native American dancers, a drummer from the Chinese Dragons athletics club and demonstrations by rhythmic gymnasts.

    "We're highlighting the cultural diversity of Chicago," said bid spokesman Patrick Sandusky.

    Then it was off to Washington Park, passing churches and businesses which had signs of support in their windows.

    The Evaluation Commission had lunch at Shedd Aquarium, which is a well-known Chicago landmark, but is not a venue.

    Lunch was courtesy of Table Fifty-Two and chef/owner A Smith, according to the Chicago Tribune.

    The guests started with Smith's signature goat-cheese biscuits and deviled eggs, followed by Oprah's tomato pie dressed with local greens and bleu cheese from Fair Oaks Farm in Winamac, Ind. The next course was beef tenderloin with redeye gravy (made with smoked turkey, not ham), grits and vegetables, along with wild-mushroom risotto and Smith's mac and cheese. Dessert was "tweets," or miniature
    Gymnast great Nadia Comaaneci talks up the Chicago bid with a group of Japanese journalists. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    versions of Smith's signature hummingbird cake.

    They then traveled to Monroe Harbor, Grant Park, North Ave. Beach, Lincoln Park Tennis Center, UIC Pavilion and Douglas Park.

    The final stop was the United Center, where basketball legend Michael Jordan appeared in a 40-second video message played from the jumbotron above the court.

    Jordan said he wished he had been able to greet them in person, but had a prior engagement as he was nominated for induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame today.

    Other Olympians and Paralympians on hand at various stops on the tour, including diver Greg Louganis, gymnasts Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner, Greco-Roman wrestler Rulon Gardner, athletics stars Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Brian Clay and wheelchair racer Linda Mastandrea, who is also Chicago 2016 director of Paralympics and Accessibility.

    More photos from the IOC Evaluation Commission visit can be seen in these ATR Photo Galleries.

    Michael Jordan's video greeting to the IOC Evaluation Commission can be downloaded at:

    Written by Ed Hula

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