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Chicago Named Finalist for 2016 Olympic Games


This week, the International Olympic Committee met in Athens, Greece to select candidate cities for the 2016 summer Olympic and Paralympic games. The Midwestern U.S. city of Chicago is now one of four candidate cities. As VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, the city hopes recent improvements and environmental initiatives will help give it the edge when the IOC selects the home of the 2016 games next year.

In 1904, the city of Chicago, the so-called "Windy City," was selected as the host of the Olympic games.

But as Patrick Sandusky explains, political meddling changed the course of history. "The U.S. President at the time - Teddy Roosevelt I believe - thought it would be a better idea to have it in St. Louis, [Missouri] where the World's Fair was, so they would have the Olympics and the Worlds Fair in the same place," he said.

Robbed of its place in the international spotlight in 1904, it has taken more than a century for Chicago to once again emerge as the leading U.S. city to host an Olympic game.

"It's been a while, but we're back in the race to bring the games to Chicago," Sandusky said.

Computer generated animations produced by the Chicago 2016 organization (in video link above), show the ambitious plans the city has for a transformation that would make Chicago one of the most user friendly Olympic sites. It includes proposals to build a massive new sports arena, as well as a private lakeside Olympic village where athletes would have their own beach.

Officials with Chicago 2016 also hope the cities environmental initiatives, such as future plans for congestion reduction, and the planting of half a million trees throughout the city, will help enhance the bid. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has publicly pledged to make Chicago the greenest city in America.

But according to Suzanne Malec-McKenna, who is the city's top environmental official, the "greening" of Chicago is a process that is complemented, not dictated, by the Olympic bid.

"I would like to think it helps attract people thinking about us an Olympic City for the Olympic and Paralympic games," Malec-McKenna said. "I think that our recognition that the environment is a part of the city, it's not this additional thing that we do with disposable income or a marginal issue, it's a part of our infrastructure."

Chicago has recent experience hosting international sporting events.

In 1994, athletes from around the world converged on the city for the opening ceremonies of the FIFA World Cup Soccer competition. Soldier Field stadium was one of several venues across the United States where teams competed.

And earlier this year, hundreds of U.S. Olympic athletes competing at the Beijing games came to Chicago for the United States Olympic Committees Media Summit, a deliberate move to help Chicago increase its visibility during this current bid.

It is visibility that Patrick Sandusky admits the city needs to be competitive.

"At this part of the campaign we certainly don't think we're favored or in first place. We're a first time bidding city, we're competing against cities - some cites have hosted the Olympics before - others have bid and done quite well in the bidding process," Sandusky added.

Chicago now competes against Tokyo, Japan, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, and Madrid, Spain.

The International Olympic Committee will visit the candidate cities early next year to evaluate each city's bid.

The IOC will make its final selection during a meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark on October 2, 2009.

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