The 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia were the last games hosted by the United States. Last year, the International Olympic Committee announced that Chicago, Illinois is one of four candidates to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Chicago joins Madrid, Tokyo, and Rio De Janeiro, the other remaining contenders. Chicago was the first stop on the IOC's tour of candidate cities. Members of the IOC Evaluation Commission gave Chicago hope that the games could return to the United States in 2016.
Chicago, known as the Windy City, lived up to its reputation during the International Olympic Committee's evaluation visit.
On a cold, wet, and windy day, thousands of community volunteers turned out to show the city's pride and support the Olympic bid.
IOC Commission members visited Soldier Field. It would be a centerpiece if Chicago wins the bid. They also saw McCormick Place Convention Center. It would house many indoor events.
Despite the less than desirable weather, Evaluation Commission Chairwoman Nawal El Moutawakel gave Chicago organizers hope that the Windy City is a top contender. "We are leaving with a very strong impression that the bid is a strong one, but at the end there is only one winner," she said.
The city's bid has big name support, most notably from hometown celebrity and talk show host Oprah Winfrey. "We can all have an honest conversation about what a great city this is and the possibilities it will bring not only for the citizens of Chicago but also the citizens of the world," she said.
Chicago's other celebrity, President Barack Obama, recorded a welcome message because the IOC visit occurred during his trip to Europe and the Middle East. "And when those games are finally held here, I promise you this. They will not only stir the soul of this city, they will not only stir the soul of America, they will stir the soul of the entire world," he said.
President Obama's senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, both Chicago natives, represented the White House during the evaluation.
They pledged unprecedented support if Chicago is selected, including a special White House office for the Games.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also from Chicago, pledged her department's support. "At the State Department, we will work with Chicago 2016 in the coming months and years, to ensure that if the city is selected, all the members of the Olympic family can gain entry into the country in a streamlined, expedited process," she said.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley told reporters that Chicago has broad national support. "There is just a feeling all over this city, and with mayors across the country, and even Governors, former Presidents, and former Secretary of States, they're all supporting our bid process, so it's more than just Chicago, it's this great United States of America," he said.
But there is also concern among community members that the global economic decline could hurt Chicago's bid.
IOC Commissioner Gilbert Felli said the economic woes facing Chicago are shared by the other candidates. "Many governments want to invest in a project, want to invest on using or to make the economy go again, but also to give hope to people, and we think the Olympic games is a project that is a package already and something that is excellent to present to it's citizens," he said.
The Commission releases its evaluation on September 2. The IOC selects the host for the 2016 games at its meeting in Copenhagen one month later.