2016 Olympics Venue | Bidding for 2016 Olympic Games
2016 Olympics Venue | Bidding for 2016 Olympic Games
The summer Olympic Games have been held in the United States of America on four occasions – St. Louis in 1904, Los Angeles in 1932 and 1984 and Atlanta in 1996. Never before, however, have they been held in Chicago, the third most populated city in the country. That may change in 2016 should the city win a vote of International Olympic Committee members and defeat rivals Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro.
Despite being rated behind the Japanese and Spanish capitals in the IOC’s initial bid evaluations, however, Chicago is the current favourite to win the Games. There are two simple reasons for that: the influence of the United States on the global Olympic movement and the former Chicago Senator turned US President, Barack Obama.
Obama’s popularity and charisma have made him an integral, if so far unofficial, element of Chicago’s bid for the Games. The Chicago bid team could not have wished for a better frontman, nor could his political ascendance have come at a better moment. His expected presence at the bid team’s final presentation, just hours before the final IOC vote in Copenhagen in October, has struck fear into the hearts of the other bidders.
Although his actual attendance is unlikely to be confirmed until around two weeks before the vote, most believe it will happen. It could have a huge effect on Chicago’s chances.
Getting a senior politician to press the flesh with IOC delegates is a tried and tested policy: then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair was widely credited with securing the Olympics for London in 2005 when he made a brief visit to the final vote in Singapore.
Having Obama on-side is undoubtedly a boon for Chicago, even if the city and bid officials are currently keen to play his role down. Rival bid cities are all too aware of his star potential and his likely ability to sway the floating voters amongst the IOC delegates.
President Obama has already publicly declared his support for the bid in the city’s bid book. He said: “I see the Olympic and Paralympic Games as an opportunity for our nation to reach out, welcome the world to our shores and strengthen our friendships across the globe. The United States would be honoured to have the opportunity to host the Games and serve the Olympic Movement.”
He added, in a letter to IOC president Jacques Rogge: “I look forward to working closely with the city of Chicago, the USOC and IOC to stage a spectacular event that advances the proud tradition of athletic competition and helps us celebrate our common humanity.”
More recently, in a special video message played to the IOC’s Evaluation Committee on its visit to Chicago in April, President Obama added: “Chicago is that most American of American cities – a city that reflects the decency, honesty, and generosity of our people; a city of broad shoulders, big dreams and a bright future.
It’s a city where the world’s races and religions and nationalities all live and work and play and reach for the American Dream that brought them here; where our civic parades wave the colours of every culture; where our classrooms are filled with the sounds of the world’s languages; and where jazz and rancheras and bhangra can be heard down the street from one another.” As a sales pitch, it can hardly be faulted.
Even without the so-called ‘Obama-effect’, however, the Chicago bid seems to tick many of the IOC’s boxes. And it is a bid that has been a long time in the making.
Even before it could approach the IOC, it had to win over the United States Olympic Committee and see off stiff competition from Los Angeles. In April 2007, a vote of the USOC membership went Chicago’s way, handing it the right to challenge for the Games internationally. Then, the city was described as “the best prepared bid city in the history of the United States.” Nothing since then has significantly altered that impression.
Apart from President Obama’s influence, the bid team itself is being led by Patrick Ryan, who works under the title chairman and chief executive. The founder of Aon Corporation, the largest insurance firm in the world, he has numerous business interests in and around Chicago as well as sporting connections in the city as a 10 per cent shareholder in the Chicago Bears National Football League franchise.
In March 2008, he retired from Aon and is now concentrating his efforts on securing the Olympic Games for Chicago, working closely with the man who appointed him, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.
Ryan insists that the IOC “could count on us – without doubt and reservation,” adding that “I could not be more confident in the plan, the team or the setting for the Games.”
The bid team has promised the most compact Games in recent history, with 85 per cent of competition to take place within an 8 km radius, an area to be known, appropriately, as the Olympic Ring.
It also plans to stage 79 per cent of sports in either existing or temporary facilities, a plan that not only saves on costs but also has environmental benefits.
That fits neatly with the IOC’s insistence on ensuring a sustainable and manageable legacy for a host city after the Games have been and gone. In all, 22 of the 27 venues will be temporary or already exist. Overall, there will be four venue hubs.
The compact plan will take advantage of the existing transport infrastructure within the city as well as putting “the athlete at the centre of the Games” – the Olympic village will be positioned so that 91 per cent of athletes are located within 15 minutes of the competition venues.
On a financial level there is understood to be a degree of concern amongst IOC members about the lack of a government financial guarantee to cover the Games, which will be funded entirely by the private sector.
Chicago officials insist they can raise US$ 3.8 billion privately to fund venue development and other key infrastructure – up to US$ 1 billion more than any of its rivals. It is also aiming to sell naming rights to Olympic venues, contracts that will only kick in after the 2016 Games as naming rights are forbidden under IOC rules.
As Ryan puts it: “We’ve developed, we believe, a financially responsible, conservative budget that minimises risk. The history of this community’s private sector is unparalleled in the world.”
The bid cites Millennium Park as an example of how it can be done. The park was constructed at the turn of the century, when 85 donors each gave at least US$ 1 million and the city raised over US$ 200 million in total to fund the project. In pure sponsorship, Chicago expects to generate around US$ 1.76 billion for the Games – based on a prediction of ten partners providing an average of US$ 110 million each and 52 additional sponsors and suppliers contributing a total of US$ 660 million.
The bid also predicted ticket revenues of US$ 705 million. Wider infrastructure investment is to include around US$ 27 billion on upgrading transportation links in and around the city. Of the four bid finalists, Chicago is spending the most on its bid – some US$ 49.3 million.
Finances aside, there is another hugely significant factor that, whether the IOC like it or not, is likely to come into play: the global influence of the United States on the Olympic movement.
It is a fact that American television rights fees for the Games dwarf those of any other country – NBC has paid US$ 894 million for the rights to the 2010 and 2012 Games and all the networks, well aware of NBC’s record advertising revenue and audience figures for Beijing last year, are expected to lodge serious bids for the 2014/2016 package.
The United States Olympic Committee has also traditionally received the majority of the IOC’s revenues from the Games.
There are those within the Olympic Movement that believe it is disproportionate for the USOC – a National Olympic Committee – to receive 20 per cent of the IOC’s sponsorship revenue and 12.75 per cent of its television revenues. The USOC has always countered by arguing that the USA is the country that has plunged the most money into the Games through the enormous television rights fees and key sponsors. But in recent years, it has received more than every one of the other 204 National Olympic Committees put together – equating to around US$ 300 million between 2005 and 2008 (a period including the winter Games in Turin, in 2006, and last year’s summer Games in China).
At the end of March, the IOC and USOC agreed to defer negotiations on a new revenue distribution deal post-2020 until 2013, a decision that seemed to pacify at least some of the critics. Nevertheless the United States remains a huge cash cow for the IOC, a fact that is bound to have at least some effect on Chicago’s bid.
The IOC, led by president Jacques Rogge, has been at pains to point out that the USOC revenue-sharing issue and Chicago’s bid are entirely separate issues: however it has certainly not been lost on the Chicago team that the current stand-off may have influenced the IOC membership, who will ultimately decide the host venue in October.
Stephen Schroder, a management board member at Sport Und Markt and a host city selection expert, said of Chicago’s bid: “The USA is traditionally the nation to provide the lion’s share of the income of the IOC, regarding broadcast rights as well as sponsorship sums. Furthermore, Chicago has a very good sports infrastructure which strengthens its role as favourite.”
The favourite tag slipped slightly in June, however, when the IOC released the findings of its examination of the applicant files – the stage at which Prague, Baku and Doha were eliminated from the process. There was understood to be a degree of private disappointment amongst the Chicago team when it was revealed that it had only placed third following the technical analysis. Chicago’s overall mark was an average of eight out of ten, a point behind both Tokyo and Madrid.
Nevertheless, the Chicago bid does still have the support of its people. A recent poll, commissioned by the bid team, indicated that 78 per cent of Chicago residents want the Games to be held in the city, a rise of one per cent from an earlier survey conducted in February. “We are gratified – but not surprised – by the high level of support in the latest survey of public opinion,” Ryan says.
“From the start, the citizens of Chicago and the city’s business, civic and philanthropic communities have been behind us. They understand the honour and excitement that comes with hosting the Games, and they are aware of the economic and social benefits and the lasting legacies that would result.”
By 2016, it will have been 20 years since the United States last hosted the summer Games and 14 years since Salt Lake City was the last US host of the winter Olympics. The undoubted quality of Chicago’s bid, not to mention its potential ace in the pack, President Obama, might well prove enough to return the Games to its biggest national benefactor.