CHICAGO - Chicago made the shortlist of international finalists, along with Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio de Janeiro, to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, the International Olympic Committee announced yesterday.
The committee found the four cities technically capable of hosting the games and eliminated three other contenders - Prague, Czech Republic; Doha, Qatar; and Baku, Azerbaijan. The final selection is to be made in November 2009.
The Chicago Olympic Committee has placed a $900 million price tag on building new facilities for the games, which are projected to generate about $2.5 billion, according to committee documents. The $900 million cost is in addition to $1.1 billion for the proposed Olympic Village to house athletes.
The city would use local revenue, including that generated from sponsorships and funds from the International Olympic Committee, to cover operating costs, while private funding would be raised to pay for constructing various facilities, both temporary and permanent.
Some tax increment financing borrowing might be done to fund improvements for permanent facilities, city officials have said. About $3 billion worth of transportation-related improvements are expected to be made in the region prior to the games. The city's Olympic Committee continues to raise private funds to cover the cost of the bidding process. About half of an estimated $50 million is still needed.
The City Council has approved a $500 million guarantee that the games would achieve a profit, a guarantee required by the U.S. Olympic Committee prior to its selection of Chicago last year as the nation's bid city. Officials said private insurance would ensure city funds are not tapped in the event of a loss. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has offered an additional $150 million state guarantee, but the General Assembly has yet to approve it. The guarantees are considered crucial given losses suffered by other cities hosting prior games.
U.S. Olympic officials have said transportation will also play a key role in assessing the finalists' ability to host the games and some believe Chicago will lose points to other cities with more modern and extensive transit networks. Transportation is such a significant factor because of the massive, short-term surge in capacity needed to host the games. During the 1996 games, Atlanta hosted an estimated two million spectators over 17 days in addition to 200,000 participants, media members, and staff.
Chicago's current regional transportation system offers 25,000 roads, including 485 miles of freeways, a public transit system that provides more than 600 million trips annually, and two major airports.
The Chicago Transit Authority is the largest local transit provider, operating 2,000 buses and 250 route-miles of light rail with 144 stations. Metra commuter rail and Pace suburban bus service make up the difference. All three operate under the umbrella of the Regional Transportation Authority. The CTA has more than $6 billion in unfunded capital needs and the RTA has said the system as a whole needs $10 billion over the next decade.
Such funding is in short supply. The state Senate recently approved a partially bond-financed $34 billion capital works bill, but the House adjourned over the weekend without action. Members of the Illinois congressional delegation have warned that federal matching funds are at risk.
"I will do everything I can as governor to pass a public works program that would enable us to invest in transit, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure that will boost Chicago's efforts to deliver the crown jewel of international sporting events to Illinois," Blagojevich said in a statement yesterday. The governor could call a special session to take up the capital budget or lawmakers could try again in their fall veto session.