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  • IOC Report Finds Problems In Chicago 2016 Plan


    09/03/09

    CHICAGO (CBS) ― The International Olympic Committee highlighted a number of problems with the Chicago's 2016 bid in a new report.

    The detailed 98-page report issued Wednesday morning says a lot about each of the individual cities, but it also says very little about which city would best be able to accommodate the games.

    There is no real hands-down favorite emerging among any of the cities, but Chicago and Rio de Janeiro appeared to be the likely frontrunners, with Rio having the edge.

    There was some major criticism directed at Chicago and the evaluation for Chicago was lukewarm overall.

    But ultimately, the reports aren't terribly meaningful. Most of the information in the 2016 report was based on information that is now three months old, probably outdated, and of little influence on the IOC voters.

    Specifically, the report pointed out that the city has not provided a full public guarantee to cover an economic shortfall, but capped public responsibility at $750 million, "presenting a risk for the IOC should the shortfall exceed this amount."

    But the money to cover unexpected Olympic losses has been nearly resolved, with the City Council about to give Mayor Richard M. Daley the go ahead to sign a blanket guarantee.

    When Daley said he would approve public backing for the Olympics last June, it created concern among many Chicagoans afraid that taxpayers would have to foot the bill for the games. But the IOC is asking all cities for full backing.

    So the city's bid team enlisted the Civic Federation to study the proposed budget for the games. Last month, the Civic Federation announced its study found that, if Chicago sticks to the plan, there would be little risk of taxpayers being asked to pay for cost overruns.

    The IOC report also pointed to a lack of full financing for Chicago's proposed Olympic Village when IOC members visited in April. That issue was resolved last week, when Chicago 2016 Chairman Pat Ryan revealed new insurance policies for the project. And the IOC report said the Olympic Village will provide a special experience for the athletes.

    Why the emphasis with money regarding Chicago's bid as opposed to the others? Because U.S. bids don't have national government guarantee. They forget about money when you have these other guarantees.

    The IOC report was also critical of the city's plan for Olympic sporting venues, saying "the emphasis on major temporary or scaled down venues increases the element of risk… in regard to the planning, costing and delivery of the venues."

    In addition, the report criticized the city's Olympic budget, calling it "ambitious, but achievable," but saying it would need more private sponsors.

    The city's transportation system was also targeted for criticism in the report. With only existing transit systems set to be used, the Olympics would more than double peak commuter demands on Metra, and "such an increase could be a major challenge," the report said.

    The commission also expressed concern about average wind strengths. The report claimed that winds of only about 11 mph in at the 3 p.m. time when most of the games are being played "could result in the disruption of several sports or disciplines – archery, rowing/canoe kayak flat water; tennis and open swimming."

    On Wednesday, Ryan tried to put the best possible face on what was a mixed report. "There's nothing in those issues we cannot resolve or have not resolved," Ryan said.

    The report on the four candidates was mostly written right after the evaluation commission visited Chicago and the other cities in April and May.

    Rio de Janeiro seemed to come out on top, perhaps increasing the lead many believe it now holds.

    A party was held Wednesday night at a Hyde Park restaurant just a few blocks from the proposed Olympic Stadium in Washington Park. People paid $30 each to attend the so-called countdown party.

    "I think they've got a real strong opportunity, I think it will fly," one man said.

    "I think we have as good a chance as anybody. We'll see," a woman said.

    "You can't see beyond those two now, and it's been that way for several months now," said Duncan MacKay, InsideTheGames.biz.

    And Chicago 2016 leaders knew MacKay and other experts were concluding Rio was helped the most by the report, perhaps padding a lead it already had.

    "I like somebody to be in first place, so it might as well be Rio," Ryan said. "We don't want to be in first place right now."

    But none of the cities competing for the 2016 Games got off scot free. The report pointed out that Tokyo's Olympic bid suffers from low public support, and that many venues that Tokyo listed as "existing" would actually have to be built from scratch.

    "This lack of clarity could have communications and legacy implications," the report said of the problem with Tokyo's Olympic venues, many of which that city's bid team claimed could be reused from the 1964 Olympics.

    The report was fairly easy on Rio de Janeiro, but pointed out that there are "serious public safety challenges" there, referencing its murder rate. But the report said the local policing strategies now being implemented are already getting positive results.

    "Rather than raise a red flag about it, the IOC is signaling progress is being made. Maybe it's not so much an issue for people to worry about," said Ed Hula, AroundTheRings.com.

    But the report was hard on Madrid, saying its bid "did not demonstrate a full understanding of the need for clear delineation of roles and responsibilities" in both financing and managing the Games.

    Furthermore, the report said, "At the time of the visit, it was unclear whether Spanish anti-doping legislation complied with the (World Anti-Doping Agency) code. It is important that this issue is resolved."

    The report said Chicago's bid documents and presentations were "detailed and of high quality." Tokyo also got a "high quality" mark, but was criticized for a lack of detail and clarity. The report called Rio's bid "detailed and of very high quality," but said Madrid's documents and presentations "varied in quality."

    The city got stuck with a half-million dollar bill for the report, and presentations last April cost millions more.

    Four years ago, the IOC toured prospective host cities with the same chairperson and a similar committee, which seemed to favor Paris over four other candidates, including London.

    So what happened a month later? The 2012 Games were awarded to London.

    Regardless, some Chicagoans said the IOC Commission has legitimate concerns.

    "It is a big concern, you know, but I think if they think it out, I think we have enough resources here in Chicago, and the suburbs, that you could pool those resources and make it happen," one man said in Daley Plaza.

    "There are things that need to be done, but I'm sure by the time... (Mayor Daley) will handle that," another man said. "We'll come up to the money."

    Meanwhile, a new independent survey shows Chicagoans and the rest of the country are overwhelmingly behind the bid. But the poll by the German sports consulting form Sport-Markt shows that's only good enough for second place.

    The poll of 1,000 adults from across the United States shows 92 percent support for the 2016 Games. But that falls behind Madrid, where 93 percent of those polled backed the bid.

    Still, Chicago 2016 officials were pleased with the results of the poll.

    "We believe the poll reflects how excited that the entire country is about the chance for the Games to come back to the United States," said Chicago 2016 Spokesman Patrick Sandusky. Chicago's showing is 16 points better than the results of an International Olympic Committee survey taken last year.

    Sport-Markt said the poll was good news for both Chicago and Madrid.

    "For Brazil and the USA, the backing is immense," said Hartmut Zastrow, Executive Director of Sport-Markt. "In the U.S., support is at the same high level across all regions of the nation and the population's passion for a sports event is the key to its success," he said.

    By comparison, Rio de Janeiro garnered 89 percent, and Tokyo finished last with 72 percent of public support in the poll.

    A closer look at the poll results shows Chicago enjoys strong support, with a majority of respondents characterizing their feelings about the bid as "very good" or "good." Support for Chicago 2016 came from all demographics, including men and women from all parts of the country.

    Chicago can't do much about Rio. But Ryan says Chicago can and has addressed its own issues.

    "I believe that we came out very well because of the fact that every one of the criticisms is resolvable," Ryan said.

    But by raising issues already resolved by Chicago and paying little more than lip service to life-threatening problems in Rio, you start to wonder whether the votes which could put Rio over the top will be based on facts or fantasy.

    The final decision on who will get the 2016 Games comes on Oct. 2, exactly one month from now.

    http://cbs2chicago.com/olympics2016/olympic.committee.report.2.1158816.html