By Vicki Michaelis, USA TODAY
CHICAGO — The leader of the International Olympic Committee's inspection team said Tuesday that members were "most impressed" by Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Games and the strong support they saw from the White House, City Hall and corporate boardrooms.
The International Olympic Committee team analyzing Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Games was "most impressed" by what it saw during a four-day visit that ended Tuesday.
"We are leaving with a very strong impression that the bid is a strong one," said IOC executive board member Nawal El Moutawakel, who led the evaluation commission. "But at the end there is only one winner."
Chicago is competing with Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo for the right to host the 2016 Olympics. Chicago was the first city evaluated; Tokyo is next.
The 13-member team will prepare an assessment of the technical aspects, such as venue plans and budgets, of each of the bids. That report will be released Sept. 2. IOC members will choose the winner Oct. 2 in Copenhagen.
While she avoided discussing Chicago's strengths and weaknesses specifically, El Moutawakel used several superlatives in a news conference Tuesday. She especially praised the community, business and government support on display during the visit.
Team members heard from President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and NBA legend Michael Jordan in videotaped messages. TV's Oprah Winfrey joined them for dinner Monday.
"We're very pleased with her reaction, but we're not deluding ourselves," Chicago 2016 bid leader Pat Ryan said of El Moutawakel's positive response. "They're going on to three great cities — three great cities that will show well."
For two years Chicago's bid leaders have traveled the world to share their plan with IOC members through photos, videos and dossiers. This was their first chance to show IOC members the parks and lakefront areas where they plan to build stadiums and the athletes' village and to show how close those things are to each other and to downtown Chicago.
"We felt that the concept of the whole Olympic Games within the city of Chicago is very compact, and the transport distance from the village to the venues is reasonable," El Moutawakel said. "I don't think there will be any problems."
On Chicago's possible Achilles' heel — unlike its three opponents, it doesn't have a blanket guarantee that government will cover all cost overruns — she was much less precise.
"We have been given a lot of guarantees over the past days, and all the guarantees will be thoroughly studied," she said. "We cannot give further details."
Bid officials have put together a $1.2 billion safety net, a combination of city and state guarantees, private insurance and a contingency fund. IOC President Jacques Rogge said last month the "form of the guarantee is not an issue."
"From my perspective the financial position is well-planned," said Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who points out the U.S. government, as with past Olympics, will shoulder the cost of security and some infrastructure improvements. That message should figure greatly in discussions Chicago's bid team will have with IOC members the next six months.
"We're not assuming anything," Ryan said. "We'll be out informing people more about Chicago. We'll be out establishing relationships, strengthening relationships. There's a lot of travel, a lot of hard work."
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