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Local Olympics movement making headway

--- Chicago will listen to Walworth County's biking proposal

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published July 2, 2007, 10:48 a.m.)

Walworth County is still in the race to get an Olympic venue should Chicago land the summer 2016 summer games.

Chicago 2016, the city's Olympic bid committee, invited a contingent of county and state officials to lay out plans to bring mountain biking, road biking and possibly BMX biking events to Walworth County. The Chicago committee will hear the proposal at a meeting on Monday.

"In order to make the proposal, you have to go to Chicago's committee," said Fred Burkhardt, executive director of the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance. "They are the nominated city for the United States. Chicago was either going to talk to us or they're not. The fact that they have decided to talk to us is one step closer to achieving our goal."

The bid package proposes to have mountain biking at the John Muir Trails in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, BMX biking at UW-Whitewater or Alpine Valley Resort in East Troy, and a road cycling race from downtown Chicago, through Racine and Kenosha counties and finishing at the Kettle Moraine State Forest area near Whitewater, Burkhardt said.

"It's the entire cycling cluster," Burkhardt said.

The economic development alliance, a sporting event consulting firm, the UW-Whitewater athletics department, the state Department of Tourism, the city of Whitewater, the Walworth County Visitors Bureau and officials from neighboring Racine and Kenosha counties have all had a hand in the proposal, Burkhardt said.

He's not sure when Chicago would have an answer about whether or not it will include southeastern Wisconsin in the proposal that will go to the International Olympic Committee.

Applications for all 2016 bids are due to the IOC by Sept. 13, 2007.

"I would suppose we'll have some kind of correspondence within 30 to 45 days. What that will say, I would not want to cast a guess on it," Burkhardt said.

Chicago is facing international competition from Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Madrid and Prague, Czech Republic.

Chicago and Rio de Janeiro are likely the leading cities as the IOC typically alternates continents. London will hold the 2012 games, making the European cities of Madrid and Prague as more long-shot candidates and Beijing is hosting the games in 2008, giving Tokyo an outside shot.

The United States has not hosted the Olympics since the 1996 Atlanta games, which would be two decades between games by 2016.

South America has never hosted an Olympics, but Rio de Janeiro is hosting the Pan-American Games next year.

The IOC desires having cycling events clustered together and using some outlying areas, Burkhardt said.

Chicago 2016 hadn't released plans for its road biking or BMX courses, but was looking to have mountain biking at the Palos Forest Preserve just west of downtown.

"We think we might offer an enhancement to tha," with the Kettle Moraine trails, Burkhardt said. "That will make the Chicago bid on an international level much stronger."

Road cycling courses typically start off rather flat, which Chicago has, and finish on more varying terrain, found easily in the glacial-formed hills here, Burkhardt said.

The local contingent will stress that southeastern Wisconsin has the vertical climbs necessary for the long-distance road courses.

"Why not start in Chicago and run it through three Wisconsin counties?" Burkhardt said.

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