WASHINGTON -- It seemed surprising when Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who once dismissed bidding for the Olympics as a con game, announced a year ago that he was forming a committee to explore the idea of having Chicago bid for the Olympics. It seemed improbable for a city that had almost no involvement with Olympic sports for nearly a half-century suddenly to want to host the Games.
Daley convinced the one man he needed that the city was dedicated to the effort, and the result yesterday was Chicago's selection over two-time Olympic host Los Angeles as the U.S. candidate for the 2016 Summer Games.
The last major international sports event in Chicago was the 1959 Pan American Games, a "hemispheric Olympics."
"I wanted two things when [Daley] asked me to head the exploratory committee," said Patrick Ryan, chairman of Chicago 2016. "One was to really understand his commitment, and he was very clear about that. Second was, could we find a solution for the Olympic Stadium? Once we found a creative solution for the stadium, then I realized we could win."
Chicago's victory in a vote of the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors at the Hilton Embassy Row was the second of four it will need to become host city.
The first, last July, was being named one of three U.S. finalists among five original bidders. The third would be designation as an international finalist. The fourth will be in a contest ending in October 2009, when the International Olympic Committee's members choose the 2016 host.
"The bidding process for 2016 has not yet been [formally] launched, but we welcome the choice of Chicago, officially selected [yesterday] by the USOC," IOC president Jacques Rogge said. "We are happy to have an American city in the race."
Chicago's rivals in the 2016 competition likely will include Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Madrid; Rome; Tokyo; and Prague, Czech Republic. Cities have until Sept. 15 to file a bid application with the IOC.
"The value proposition presented by Chicago with the lakefront celebration center and some of the legacy projects, coupled with the guarantees they have offered, gave our board a level of assurance that might have been the differentiation by the cities," said USOC vice president and board member Bob Ctvrtlik, overseer of the domestic bid process.
Philip Hersh writes for the Chicago Tribune