A Chicago 2016 emblem appears in lights of a high-rise building left, as the newly refurbished Buckingham Fountain welcomes the IOC's inspection committee on Tuesday.
A Chicago 2016 emblem appears in lights of a high-rise building left, as the newly refurbished Buckingham Fountain welcomes the IOC's inspection committee on Tuesday.

Chicago hope

CHICAGO // The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) inspection team are "most impressed" by Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Games and the strong support they have seen from the White House, City Hall and corporate boardrooms. "We are leaving with a very strong impression that the bid is a strong one," Nawal el Moutawakel, the chairwoman of the IOC's evaluation commission, said.

But while offering a glowing assessment of Chicago as a "vibrant" city, el Moutawakel did not tip the commission's hand about the city's pitch to host the Games, the bid's US$4.8 billion (Dh17.6bn) price tag, and the financial guarantees Chicago officials have given. While there have been a lot of questions surrounding all the bid cities' ability to pay for the Games amid difficult economic times around the world, el Moutawakel said: "When you see the heavyweight business community that yesterday tried to convince us that they're, all of them, backing the Chicago bid, I think the crisis will not last forever," she said.

The Chicago 2016 organisers went into the visit hoping to impress the commission with their plan to put on a compact Games, one that would put most of the events along the lake front, and el Moutawakel's comments suggest they succeeded. "We felt that the concept of the whole Olympic Games within the city of Chicago is very compact and the distance between the village is reasonable, and I don't think there will be any problems," she said.

El Moutawakel also indicated the bid hit the right note with its plan to build a temporary stadium on the South Side - saying it is in sync with the IOC's philosophy that cities should not build facilities they cannot use later. Another message the organisers wanted to send the IOC was that the bid has support. Throughout the IOC's stay there were very few protesters, and though the commissioners met with some, the organisers said that was not unusual.

Perhaps as significant was that the commissioners were greeted by members of the city council, whose wards on the South Side include mostly minority residents. Their message was simple: the constituents are excited about how the Games might benefit by giving them jobs and, after the Games leave, affordable housing. The IOC inspectors will also visit Tokyo, then Rio de Janeiro and finally Madrid. * AP

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