Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, at a meeting of the International Olympic Committee, announced that the city will sign a contract providing a blanket financial guarantee to cover any losses associated with the Summer 2016 Games. He was greeted with skepticism by some City Council members and received bad local press.
Chicago and the other three bidding cities made their final pitch last week ahead of the committee’s decision later this year on a 2016 host city.
Daley and Chicago 2016 Committee chair Pat Ryan have assured the council and public that the city is on the hook for no more than $500 million and that other privately funded guarantees, a state guarantee, and insurance coverage would kick in first in what they have portrayed as the unlikely event the games lose money.
With pressure mounting, Daley told the IOC the city would sign the contract required of all bidders to cover potential losses. Daley and Ryan said the games would have to lose $2.5 billion before that unlimited guarantee would kick in.
Daley has repeatedly said the Olympics would not cost local taxpayers, but he made a similar pledge on the development of Millennium Park until overruns doubled the cost. Chicago’s proposal calls for private funds to pay for the Olympic Village, but some tax increment financing debt might be issued to support infrastructure projects.
Several City Council members called for hearings. A Daley spokeswoman said the mayor would allow for an open debate on the issue by the council.
Aldermen are on the defensive amid charges they act as a rubber stamp for the mayor. They were widely lambasted for their swift approval of Daley’s $1.2 billion lease of the parking meter system this year. The private operators have been blasted for failing to properly manage the system.