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  • Bid City Blog: Chicago Olympic Bid Notes


    04/11/09

    Volunteers braved wind, rain and cold to carry the flag for the Chicago Olympic bid. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
     Where’s the Passion ?

    While IOC Evaluation Commission chair Nawal El Moutawakel mentioned the passion she felt from the people of Chicago for the Olympic Games, she also admitted that the IOC commission didn’t get much of a chance to mingle with the masses during the six-day visit.

    There were no huge gatherings of cheering bid boosters that some bid cities are keen to arrange as a show for the IOC Evaluation Commission. Nonetheless, hats off to several hundred volunteers who ignored terrible weather on a Sunday morning to turn out in a few places to wave at the IOC. Some ringed the circumference of the planned Olympic Stadium holding national flags while wind and rain pelted upon them. Admittedly, it takes passion – and a bit of craziness to do that.

    At the same time is there not any sense of hostility to the bid. The handful of protestors who appeared this week seem to represent a fraction of public attitude.

    Poll? What Poll?

    A stern look from bid chairman Patrick Ryan to a press conference question about the results of an IOC public opinion poll on Chicago 2016, coupled with his unwillingness to crow about the findings, may have said it all.

    While just days ago Chicago 2016 released a poll claiming 78 percent of those surveyed “want” the Games to come to Chicago, the mystery is whether the results in the independent poll carried out for the IOC are much lower.
    Chicago 2016 fills the stage for its press conference at the end of the IOC visit. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)


    Ryan says the results are a matter for the IOC to release, but IOC Evaluation Commission chair Nawal El Moutawakel would only confirm that the results had been delivered to the bid.

    A Chicago 2016 staff member insists the results “are not an issue”.

    Daley Has the Passion

    No doubt about the passion of Mayor Richard Daley, who carries the flame highest of any Chicagoan. He has thrown himself full-bore into this project. If successful, it adds another element to a legendary career.

    “The people want it, they want it,” he tells Around the Rings in an interview.

    “They’re excited. It’s like when we got Boeing to move from Seattle to Chicago. People have this appetite to see the Olympic Movement and the Paralympics come to Chicago. They want it back in the United States of America,” he says.

    In the weeks ahead, the mayors from Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid will get their share of the spotlight as the IOC commission makes its visit to those cities. None are wallflowers, all strong figures in their cities. Who among them will win the day for their bid?

    Chicago Team Leads the Way, USOC in Background

    No doubt about Chicagoans calling the shots for the 2016 Olympics. When it came time for the press conference for the U.S. bid team that followed the IOC briefing Tuesday evening, Chicago filled the stage with nearly a dozen staff members, of whom only three would speak.

    The solitary non-local was Bob Ctvrtlik, U.S. Olympic Committee vice president international, who all along has been the public face for the bid from the USOC.
    USOC chief executive Stephanie Streeter, chair Larry Probst and vp Bob Ctvrtlik step onto the red carpet at the gala Monday night. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)


    Strikingly absent from the press conference were Larry Probst, now into his seventh month as chair, and acting CEO and secretary general Stephanie Streeter. Not even ex-USOC chair Peter Ueberroth, who as honorary president is supposed to have remained involved in the campaign for Chicago.

    Probst had good cause for departing Chicago early: he’s contending with health concerns for a member of his family. We wish him well.

    He and Streeter both took part in the closed door meetings of the commission and attended the Chicago gala.

    Neither of the U.S. IOC members -- Jim Easton or Anita DeFrantz -- were on hand at the closing briefing or otherwise available to the media.

    DeFrantz, however, has hardly been shirking in her support of the bid. She arrived in Chicago from New Zealand where she had been campaigning last week for Chicago at the Oceania National Olympic Committees general assembly and took a chance to head home to California a bit early. Easton has played a low-key role so far in the Chicago bid.

    While USOC officials don't seem too fussed about vice president Ctvrtlik as the public face of the bid, it’s highly unlikely the presidents and secretaries general of the NOCs from Japan, Brazil and Spain will be no-shows at press conferences during the IOC visits to Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid.

    As a reference point, the same press conference held in New York City four years ago for the ill-fated 2012 bid included USOC chairman Ueberroth, DeFrantz and Ctvrtlik, who at that time was an IOC member.

    Chicago Press Operations

    Working conditions for the press were excellent for the most part. A large work room in the Sheraton media hotel doubled as a press conference site, allowing reporters to thwack away at their laptop keyboards while people spoke on the stage.

    High speed internet was truly high speed – and trouble-free, with tech support
    The press room at the Sheraton Hotel. (ATR/Panasonic:Lumix)
    at the beckoning. Catering provided breakfast and lunch, while bid organizers made arrangements for a number of restaurants to pick up the dinner check for the visiting press.

    Chicago 2016 press chief Patrick Sandusky and aide Mica Matsoff -- backed by a great team of volunteers -- helped keep things smoothly running. USOC Communications Director Darryl Seibel spent months working with the Chicago group to prepare for the IOC visit, with staffers Nicole Saunches and Maureen Weekes. Athens-based consultant Stratos Safioleas helped with international press relations and Chicago-based Joe Ahearn applied his local expertise.

    The Sheraton was a top-grade hotel with a decent media rate, about $269 plus tax – the highest media rate among the 2016 cities. But within just a block or two of the Sheraton, lower-priced and just-as-nice accomms, were used by some of the out-of-town media. It is a testament to Chicago’s inventory of hotels, one of the better among the 2016 cities.

    A down side was the understandably non-existent access to IOC commission members, who stayed in a separate hotel to avoid hounding by the press. On the venue tour they passed by for photo opportunities but failed to stop for the cameras.

    The press conference topics followed the order of presentations for the commission, with Chicago 2016 experts delivering compressed versions for the media. The cast was all Chicago for the most part, resembling perhaps city department heads who had just made their budget presentations to city council.

    Switching from the media workroom to the IOC hotel for the closing press conference was a hassle, especially with reporters facing tight deadlines and cut from the speedy WiFi access down the street at the Sheraton. Chicago 2016 made sure shuttles could whisk reporters to and from with little delay.

    Not meaning to sound like a stuck CD, but USOC presence was limited at press conferences, with Seibel and deputy Bob Condron the only regulars at the briefings. No senior staff appeared, such as Probst, Streeter or Ctvrtlik, nor the heads of bid-linked departments such as marketing or government relations (a post now open).

    While Chicago organizers said upwards of 200 media were credentialed for the Evaluation Commission, no more than a couple of dozen reporters took part in most of the briefings.

    International presence was minimal with a minimum of journalists from Brazil, Spain and Japan. A handful of other reporters represented publications in the Europe, Asia and Canada, but most of the media were U.S.-based.

    Written by Ed Hula

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