Ur Place

June 8, 2008

2016 Summer Olympics finalists

Filed under: Sports — halfevil @ 5:30 am

Chicago has advanced to the final phase of the contest to become host city of the 2016 Summer Olympics, although it has ground to make up on its three remaining rivals before the International Olympic Committee’s 110 members choose the winner Oct. 2, 2009.

The IOC executive committee decided Wednesday to eliminate three of the original seven bidders, Prague; Doha, Qatar; and Baku, Azerbaijan. That leaves Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo.

Wednesday’s decision was based on evaluations in a report made by an IOC working group. Chicago wound up tied for third with Doha in the rankings. Tokyo placed highest — followed by Madrid — with Rio in fifth. The IOC executive board used the rankings as guidance rather than ultimate selection criteria.

“This is a key hurdle to have passed,” said Bob Ctvrtlik, the U.S. Olympic Committee vice-president for international relations. “Now the bid committee and the city and the USOC and the nation have to unite behind Chicago.”

From information provided by each city, the bids were ranked overall and in 11 areas on a 10-point maximum. Chicago ranked no higher than second in any of the 11 and fifth in three: government support, legal issues and public opinion; sports venues; and transport concept.

To put that in perspective, 2012 Summer Games host London finished third overall behind Paris and Madrid in the rankings at the same stage of the process.”

“We know where we are strong, and we know where we are weak,” Ctvrtlik said. “We respect the analysis that has been done.”

Both the USOC and Chicago 2016 officials expected the report to show concerns about transport, given the aged nature of the city’s subway and bus systems, and finance, since the U.S. is the only country where the games cost is not completely guaranteed by government entities.

Those concerns were well founded.

The report was particularly hard on Chicago’s transport. It cited inconsistencies in the amount the city planned to spend on road and transit projects and said the many sports venues along Lake Michigan are well connected to Lake Shore Drive but not close to rail lines and stations.

“The working group had difficulty in identifying the location of transport projects and therefore assessing the coherence between transport projects and the Olympic Games concept,” the report said.

The low grade in sports venues came from the working group’s worry that four major venues require private funding and “the construction budgets appear low.”

The report also noted that the wording of Chicago’s guarantee does not fully conform with the Olympic Charter, which demands the host city and Olympic organizing committee assume all financial responsibility for putting on the Games.

Chicago has come up with a $1.15 billion guarantee against operations, including $500 million from the city, $500 million in projected operating surplus and a $150 million pledge from the state, which has not been approved yet.

The finalists immediately can begin international promotion of their bids, through advertising, interaction with global media and lobbying of IOC members.

The next formal event in the bid campaign takes place at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where each finalist will send observer teams to learn first-hand how a Summer Games runs, to assess how they can use the pluses and minuses of China’s organization to improve their own candidature — and to chat up IOC members.

“We will take full advantage of the opportunity to spend the full time in Beijing for the Olympics and Paralympics,” said Patrick Ryan, chairman of the Chicago 2016 bid committee.

“Every candidate city will be there and wanting to communicate as much as they can about their city and their bid — as much as IOC members are willing to take the time to listen to.”

Since the goal is to convince a majority of IOC members rather than the global public that Chicago’s bid is the best, the impact of advertising is diminished.

“We would also like to convince other people of sport who have influence with IOC members,” Ryan said. “People in (international sports) federations. People in national Olympic committees.”

After Beijing, the cities begin working in earnest on the “bid book” — a highly detailed candidature file that generally runs to 400 pages. That file must be submitted to the IOC by Feb. 12, 2009.

The IOC will then send an evaluation commission for three-day visits to each city, likely next April and May. That commission prepares a report released a month before the final vote. It does not contain an official ranking of the candidates.

Since the IOC banned members from making inspection visits to candidate cities — except for business or personal matters — in the wake of the bid city vote-buying scandal that erupted in 1998, many cities have been frustrated in trying to overcome their unfamiliarity to many IOC members.

That is an issue for Chicago. Ryan said fewer than 25 percent of the members have visited Chicago, and Mayor Richard M. Daley told the Tribune Monday the city’s “profile was very important.”

In April, IOC president Jacques Rogge said that to alleviate the familiarity issue, all candidate cities and IOC members would be invited to a meeting at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland some time next year, probably late spring.


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