Chicago, Tokyo finish off Olympic bidding process

By The Associated Press

LAUSANNE, Switzerland – Chicago and Tokyo submitted their official bid books to the International Olympic Committee on Thursday for the 2016 Summer Games.

Madrid and Rio de Janeiro delivered their documents on Wednesday as all four candidates met the deadline of midnight Thursday.

Chicago’s book was delivered by Stuart Owen Rankin, grandson of Olympic great Jesse Owens, winner of four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Games. The 42-year-old Rankin also visited the Olympic museum that displays his grandfather’s running shoes.

The bid books, covering 400 to 500 pages and several volumes, provide detailed answers to a questionnaire from the IOC about all facets of the bids, including budgets, sports venues, government guarantees, hotel accommodation, security and transportation.

Chicago is aiming to bring the Summer Olympics to the U.S. for the first time since the 1996 Games. New York failed in its bid for the 2012 Olympics, which went to London. Chicago’s bid, supported by President Barack Obama, proposes centering the games along the city’s scenic lakefront.

The IOC authorized the cities to release the bid documents on their Web sites Friday, the same day all four are planning news conferences in the candidate cities.

The IOC will select the host city by secret ballot on Oct. 2 in Copenhagen.

Chicago, whose bid relies heavily on existing and temporary venues, puts its total budget at around $4.7 billion.

“We’re fortunate in that we have so much of our infrastructure already in place and modernized,” bid chairman Patrick Ryan said recently.

Tokyo, which hosted the 1964 Olympics, says it has already secured $4 billion to fund construction of venues, saying it is best positioned to weather the global economic downturn.

Madrid calls itself the “safest choice” during the financial crisis because it has 77 percent of venues ready or under construction. The Spanish capital projects spending $317 million for new venues.

Brazil, seeking to bring the games to South America for the first time, has said it is not as affected by the crisis as other nations. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said big infrastructure projects planned for coming years will go ahead, including transportation projects aimed for the 2014 World Cup that could apply to the Olympics.

The IOC evaluation commission, chaired by executive board member Nawal El Moutawakel, will study the bid files and visit the four cities. The panel will go to Chicago from April 4-7, followed by stops in Tokyo from April 16-19, Rio from April 29-May 2 and Madrid from May 5-8.

The commission will issue a report assessing the bids in September.

Critics have described Olympic bid books as works of fiction because their projections often differ from reality years later.

“A lot of it was fiction, wishful thinking, hope, prayer and all that,” senior Canadian IOC member Dick Pound said. “But the bid books are now more responsible than they used to be. Now you have an evaluation commission to find out if there has been gross exaggeration.”

How many of the 115 IOC members will actually read the bid books is a different matter.

“Probably fewer than the candidates would hope,” Pound said.

But, more than ever, financial issues will be closely scrutinized because of the economy.

What’s certain is that no city can match the spending of China, which invested more than $40 billion on new venues and infrastructure for last year’s Olympics.

Organizers of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and 2012 London Olympics are feeling the pinch, with both forced to dip into contingency funds to cover shortfalls caused by the slowing economy and lack of private financing. London’s overall budget has grown to $13.4 billion.

“We know the global economic recession is going to persist for some time and will lead into preparation time for the Olympics,” said Will Jennings, a research fellow at the University of Manchester. “Every city is going to be exposed. It’s not easy to say one bid is inherently safer than the others. They all have different features.”