Chicago unveils Olympic plans

Chicago's Olympic organizers unveiled their official bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic games today, a $4.8 billion proposal they say will not have to be shouldered by taxpayers.

But just in case, Chicago 2016 also announced a $1 billion "safety net," half of which is a financial guarantee made by Mayor Richard M. Daley and the City of Chicago in case of a budget shortfall.

Chicago delivered its bid to the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland on Thursday before making the proposal public at the Chicago History Museum this morning. Tokyo, Rio De Janeiro and Madrid also submitted proposals.

The IOC will name the host city on Oct. 2.

"Our aspirations for welcoming the world to Chicago and the United States are represented in nearly 600 pages in this three-volume document," Patrick Ryan, the chief organizer of Chicago 2016, says. "It's important that games in Chicago in 2016 are portrayed as a festival of friendship and sport."

If all goes according to plan, that festival would generate nearly $3.8 billion in revenue, which has residents in Bronzeville, the neighborhood that would host Olympic Village, eager to learn what they stand to gain once the games are over.

Chicago 2016's current plan is to rehabilitate the neighborhood, which includes the city's newly acquired Michael Reese Hospital campus, where the Village would be built. Acquisition of the hospital property would stand as the sole public investment budgeted in the $4.8 billion bid.

Some Bronzeville advocates are hoping the games will yield a permanent windfall for the community.

"Affordable housing, we're shooting for affordable home ownership," said Kenneth Williams, co-chairman of Housing Bronzeville, an agency closely watching developments.

Some Bronzeville residents, however, have expressed concern that affordable housing will be unavailable in the neighborhood in the wake of Olympic success. They fear gentrification could force working-class people out of the area.

The bid declared 85 percent of the Olympic events would take place within an eight-kilometer (five-mile) radius of the Olympic village, while 79 percent of the events would occur in temporary venues that would be dismantled after the closing ceremony.

Although the Chicago 2016 plan calls for numerous infrastructure improvements and new construction, both permanent and temporary, the bid does not include plans to bolster the city's mass transportation system.

"The location of Chicago's venues and celebration sites was driven in part by proximity to the city's extensive road and rail transport infrastructure, a system capable of handling Olympic capacities today,” according to the proposal.

The CTA might run additional trains or alter schedules during the games so spectators can access venues with ease, according to the proposal.

After the Olympic press conference, North Side attorney Christine Svenson, who has been critical of the proposal, says she wants more.

"Why isn't private money going towards fixing our train system? Our state is $200 million in debt, why isn't private money going towards that?" Svenson says.

Chicago organizers are still seeking upwards of $240 million in additional private funding. Organizers believe they still have seven years to find the remaining revenue and compensate for increasing costs as a result of inflation. In 2016, the games could cost as much as $4.2 billion.

Daley has said that he will use tax-increment financing to pay for the development of Olympic Village. The City Council approved the plan without debate last month.

Discuss

VITTORIO JACKSON, 02-14-2009

Say NO to the Olympics!!! This only serves King Daley big super ego! Really, any benefits will be given to friends of the Machine! Another way to move poor folks out of Chicago.