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  • On the Scene in Chicago -- Bid CEO Shares City's "Passion" with IOC


    04/07/09

    Chicago 2016 chair Patrick Ryan, along with gymanstics couple Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner -- and Oprah Winfrey. (Pool photographer)
    Pat Ryan, chairman and chief executive of the Chicago bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, on Monday night welcomed the members of the International Olympic Committee's evaluation commission to a gala dinner at one of the city's landmark buildings by declaring Chicago's people were "passionate" about the Games and "want to host the world here in 2016."

    In a two-minute speech, Ryan also said to the evaluation commission members, whose four-day visit to Chicago concludes Tuesday, "You've asked very good questions. You've challenged us but it has been a great exchange of ideas and we have had a wonderful opportunity to represent our great city and our plan. I'm very proud of the team. It has just been a great opportunity to be with you and thank you for being with us."

    His remarks drew sustained applause from the crowd of 120 people, which included civic and corporate leaders as well as entertainment figures and Olympic personalities.

    Among them: Oprah Winfrey, the television host, clearly the center of attention in the room, elegant in a white top and black skirt. Sharing her table: Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco, the chairwoman of the evaluation commission; Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley; track and field gold medalist Michael Conley, president of World Sport Chicago; Miles White, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Abbott Laboratories; Larry Probst, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors; J.B. Pritzker, managing partner and co-founder of The Pritzker Group; and Mufi Hannemann, mayor of Honolulu, who flew to Chicago in an effort to demonstrate the national support of the Chicago bid.

    Olympic figures in the room included gymnastics gold medalist Bart Conner; track and field legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee; 2008 Beijing Games decathlon gold medalist Bryan Clay; 2008 Games women's all-around gymnastics gold medalist Nastia Liukin; the two IOC members in the United States, Anita DeFrantz and Jim Easton; and the acting chief executive of the USOC, Stephanie Streeter.

    The
    Oprah Winfrey and IOC Evaluation Commission chair Nawal Moutawakel meet at the City Night gala. (Pool photographer)
    room, the Trustees Board Room on the second floor of the new modern wing of the art institute, was set up for the occasion with 15 tables, the white tablecloths on each accented with a centerpiece of white flowers and three lights, votive candles resting atop long glass stems. Guests started filtering in about 7:35 p.m. Ryan made his remarks shortly before 8 p.m.

    The walls as well as the stage -- the stage set up in the northwest corner of the room -- were trimmed in a sheer blue fabric. Blue and pink lights were aimed at the ceiling for atmosphere.

    "... The private philanthrophy for public purpose is just alive in this wing," Ryan said, "because it's just short of $400 million that was contributed by the private sector. And then, as you all know, Millennium Park right next door, another $200 million -- a statement of Chicago's belief of helping out really important efforts and initiatives and working on behalf of the general public to make life much better in this city.

    "What better statement could we have than this wonderful addition to the world-famous Art Institute of Chicago?"

    Outside, just to the north across Millennium Park, the lights had been left on in several skyscrapers to spell out messages backing the bid. For instance, on the Blue Cross building, it said: "2016 Chicago."

    "Let me just ask you, whether it's to your left or your right, to my left, I'd like you to look out the window and you'll see '2016' everywhere on our buildings," Ryan said, referring to those office lights left on, drawing laughs and applause.

    He said, "Chicago 2016, you know, the iconic buildings of our skyline -- really a statement about how passionate Chicagoans are for your being here to welcome you and to tell you how passionate they are about the Olympic movement, its principles, values, Olympic sports and how they want to host the world here in 2016."

    Pool report was provided by Alan Abrahamson, UniversalSports.com, NBCOlympics.com
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