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Barack Obama and Olympics

Obama ups the Chicago Olympics ante

Hazel Heyer, eTN Staff Writer  Oct 01, 2009

US President Barack Obama traveled to Denmark to support Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, projecting the highest-ever White House profile in lobbying for the international event. In Denmark, Mr. and Mrs. Obama made their pitch to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), making Obama the first US president to actually appeal in person to the committee for an Olympics event.

The IOC met in Copenhagen to select a host city for the 2016 Summer Games. Chicago faces tough competition from Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo. Rio and Madrid compete with their beautiful cities. Tokyo competes with its sound, solid economic engine in a city that presents a very well organized bid. Madrid bid in the 2012 Games, but in the semi-finals against Paris and London, Paris won the semi-finals and London came in second. However, in the finals, Madrid switched to London; later London beat Paris for the 2012 event.

Chicago is not far from winning its bid to host. If Chicago becomes the host city, it will encompass an experience for all the constituents including the athletes, the Olympic family, spectators and television viewers, let alone, the people of Chicago.

According to Bill Scherr, board member of Chicago 2016 and chairman of World Sport, Chicago sent a big representation in June in Switzerland. He said: “We’ve been lobbying those 107 IOC members in several voting competitions for the event. Our bid concludes October 2nd in a special conference in Copenhagen, Denmark with the IOC where we make a presentation together with the other three candidate cities.”

The Chicago 2016 board’s plan has four core ideas. First, the athletes will have to be at the center of the Games. An Olympic village, a state-of-the-art-facility will be built at the center of the city located on the lake with its own private beach. The athletes will be close to the competition so that they can have access to the sports arena. The Games will be set at the center of the city so that the Olympic family, spectators and the athletes can enjoy everything the city has to offer. “We will surround the Games with a festival and an atmosphere of friendship so that there can be great interaction between the fans and the city which happens in the Olympics,” said Scherr.

Chicago’s Olympic stadium will have a “living skin” with the entire outside of the stadium broadcasting the images from inside the stadium and from around the Games. Between the stadium and the Washington and Jackson Park, there will be open interactive sites for children to try fitness sports, for people to trade pins, and kiosks for people to connect to their communities back home.

The 2016 Games will presumably raise $22.5 billion in income for Chicago; also 1 million visitors are expected to arrive. The budget for Olympic village generates $3.8 billion in revenues but costs may reach $3.3 billion for construction. Scherr said they expect $450 million in surplus for hosting - just as Atlanta and Salt Lake City had reported net earnings after expense has been deducted for hosting the Games. The board said they expect raising money contributed by sponsors at $1.248 billion, broadcast $1.01 billion, tickets $705 million, donations $246 million, licensing $572 million with city tax dollars at “zero.” The total funds come up to $3.781 billion. On the expense end, Scherr disclosed that they are purchasing $450 billion worth of insurance however.

The Obama’s met with Queen Margrethe and Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen of Denmark. He also recently sent letters to selected IOC members promising a spectacular Olympic experience for one and all.

Despite the Olympic fever, some Chicagoans don’t think the city should host the Games due to excessive taxes to be borne by them. There is opposition to the move by the Obama’s.

Also, European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) demonstrated in a previous report that countries that host the Olympic Games suffer from a drop in tourism growth in the years surrounding the event. There is no long-term boost to tourism, as has been widely asserted. The report. Following the Sydney Games, the ETOA saw a trend of over 10 percent growth in visitor arrivals turn into a decline two years before the Sydney Olympics. The stagnation persisted for more than two years after for Australia.

A similar “Olympic Effect” is also apparent for four out of the last five Olympics - in Sydney 2000, Atlanta 1996, Barcelona 1992 and Seoul 1988 (below). With regard to Athens, official statistics for the years after the Games are not yet available.

However, the pattern appears to be the same. In 2002, two years before the Olympics, arrivals in Greece were 8.2 percent up on the previous year but in 2003, numbers fell by 1.5 percent. This decline continued until the first part of 2004. One month before the start of the Games, visitor arrivals were 12 percent down, the ETOA said.

In his piece "Obama's Olympic Error," sportswriter and radio commentator David Zirin said: "To greater or lesser degrees, the Olympics bring gentrification, graft and police violence wherever they nest. ... It's also difficult for Chicago residents to see how this will help their pocketbooks, given that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley pledged to the International Olympic Committee that any cost overruns would be covered by taxpayers."

Zirin, the author of "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" and the newly published "A People's History of Sports in the United States" and host of XM Radio's "Edge of Sports Radio," further added: "This is why a staggering 84 percent of the city opposes bringing the Games to Chicago if it costs residents a solitary dime. Even if the games were to go off without a hitch -- which would happen only if the setting was lovely Shangri-La -- not even half the residents would support hosting the Games.

Obama ups the Chicago Olympics ante
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