Chicago is one step closer to hosting the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games after the United States Olympic Committee ( USOC ) on April 14 formally announced Chicago as its applicant city. The announcement was made following a vote by the USOC Board of Directors during its quarterly meeting at the Hilton Washington Embassy Row Hotel in Washington, D.C.
'On behalf of the United States Olympic Committee, we would like to congratulate Chicago on its selection as our applicant city,' said USOC Chairman of the Board Peter Ueberroth. 'Our ultimate goal at the outset was to identify the U.S. city with the best chance of competing internationally. In Chicago and Los Angeles, we had two outstanding bids and we are confident that Chicago is positioned to be competitive in the international field and will make our country proud.'
Chicago now will be nominated by the USOC to the International Olympic Committee ( IOC ) as a candidate for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The international campaign will last two years, concluding in October 2009 at the IOC Session in Copenhagen, Denmark, when the 2016 host city is selected.
'This is an opportunity to really educate all of America and the world about what the Olympic Movement brings not only to your city, not only to your country, but also to the world,' said Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. 'It is a spirit in which people will come together to compete on a level playing field, and it really recognizes the best of humanity.'
Patrick Ryan, Chairman and CEO of the Chicago 2016 Exploratory Committee, said: 'It is truly a great honor to partner with the U.S. Olympic Committee and work to bring back the Games to the United States. This is a wonderful and very important thing for our city and certainly for our country. It's great to have a partner like the U.S. Olympic Committee, and together we can work successfully.'
This is Chicago's first application to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Chicago's Olympic plan calls for a compact Games, providing an ease of access to all venues for athletes, media and others. The Olympic Village, for instance, will be situated on the lakefront.
No doubt the 2006 Gay Games had a strong impact on Chicago's Olympic bid since the Gay Games was a successful, smooth event that actually featured more athletes than the Olympics would.
'We extend our hearty congratulations to Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago 2016 Committee Chair Pat Ryan, and the entire Chicago 2016 Committee on the successful presentation to the USOC,' said Gay Games VII spokesman Kevin Boyer, a resident of Chicago. 'We know from experience the commitment and emotion that goes into a bidding process and we thank them for their vision and perseverance.
'Watching the live bid announcement [ April 14 ] brought back the memories and emotion of March 2, 2004, the day Chicago learned it had been selected to host the 2006 Gay Games—ironically, also over a bid from Los Angeles. Through the cheers and tears, we knew then that Chicagoans of all types would rally around us, culminating in a hugely successful Gay Games.
'In the next two years, as the Chicago 2016 Committee works to convince the International Olympic Committee that Chicago is the best site for the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, we pledge our ongoing support to our great city and the bid effort,' Boyer continued. 'We also urge everyone in Chicago's lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight-allied community, especially the more than 3,000 Gay Games volunteers and 2,000 participating Gay Games athletes from Chicago, to lend their unflagging support to Chicago 2016. Let's make sure that Mayor Daley and the world know that our community is behind this effort 100%.'
In a December interview with Windy City Times, Daley said, 'Regarding the international aspect [ of the Olympics ] , the Gay Games provided perspective about things—and we got positive [ coverage ] from the media. We were showcased in Chicago, and we showed what we can do.'
Dick Uyvari, an Uptown resident and strong supporter of the Gay Games, said the Gay Games clearly showed that Chicago was very capable of hosting about 10,000 out-of-town athletes with no problem. And, he added, 'the Gay Games had mostly adequate facilities to accomplish what we needed to do, and we did use some comparable venues.'
Although the 2016 Olympics would include few openly-gay athletes, if any, Uyvari is convinced the LGBT community will stand strong behind the Games.
'One thing I found very interesting [ from Chicago's Olympic bid ] was the video clip used featuring the Gay Games Opening Ceremony fireworks video from Soldier Field,' Uyvari said.
Marcia Hill, president of the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association ( CMSA ) , said the announcement was 'great,' though she was nervous about what impact renovations and construction at Washington Park on the South Side would have on local leagues, such as softball.
'The Gay Games might have helped secure the [ 2016 Olympic ] bid in some way, and that's exciting to know,' Hill said.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., issued a statement congratulating Daley on securing the Olympic bid for Chicago.
'I want to congratulate Mayor Richard Daley and his team for winning the right to represent the United States in competition for the Olympic Summer Games of 2016,' Rush said. 'Chicago is a great sports city with a rich tradition in excellence. I am pleased that Chicago will now have the chance to win 60 votes from the International Olympic Committee to host the Summer Games. For this to happen, the entire country must now get behind Chicago. I am confident that bringing the Olympics to Chicago will provide great benefit to the U.S., Chicago, and my constituents in the 1st Congressional District.
'As the chairman of the House's subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection [ which includes jurisdiction over interstate and foreign commerce, and regulation of travel and tourism ] , I believe that the Olympics can and must be an economic development boom for all of Chicago,' Rush said. 'I look forward to working with the city and state on the next phase of this Olympic bid.'
U.S. Senator Barack Obama, D-Ill., said in a statement: 'All Chicagoans can be proud that our great city now will represent our country in bidding for the 2016 Olympic Games. I congratulate Mayor Daley and the Chicago Olympic Committee for their good work, and I look forward to continuing to work with them on behalf of our bid. I believe that a Chicago Olympics can help restore our nation's standing as a source of hope and opportunity around the globe while bringing lasting benefits to the residents of our region.'
After the announcement, U.S. Representative Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., announced plans to introduce legislation that will ensure international Olympic officials, coaches and athletes receive visas efficiently in order to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
'With this chance to make a bid for the 2016 Olympics, Chicago will get to show the rest of the world what we already know—that Chicago is one of the greatest cities in the world,' they said. 'Whether it's our glorious lakefront, diverse neighborhoods, world class cultural institutions, or thriving economy, we are truly blessed. Now's our chance to help Chicago shine. Today, we announce plans to introduce legislation to ensure that Olympic participants are not prevented from competing by bureaucratic delays. Chicago is the best place in the world for the 2016 Olympics, and we are going to do our part to make sure that we are the best hosts in the world.'