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Officials peddle Walworth County for Olympic events

---Chicago 2016 briefed on bringing cycling, other sports to Wisconsin

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published July 3, 2007, 1:17 p.m.)

Maybe the pressure wasn't as great as an Olympic gymnast performing in front of a panel of judges, but a group from Walworth County wanting to host Olympic events in Wisconsin should Chicago land the 2016 games still wanted to score big.

A diverse group of five individuals went to the Chicago 2016 planning committee Monday to pitch hosting cycling, equestrian and rowing events in Walworth County and southeastern Wisconsin if the windy city is selected to host the games tabbed for nine years from now.

"We made our presentation, and it was well received," said Fred Burkhardt, executive director of the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance, which is coordinating the effort. "There has been no decision made. They will be looking at it in depth."

When asked what led him to believe Chicago 2016 was receptive, Burkhardt said it was the inquisitiveness of the Chicago committee.

"It was the nature of the conversations, the nature of the questions and so fourth. They were pretty straightforward. They were substantive," he said. "There was no way to read on it beyond that."

Jerry Waelti, president of the alliance's board of directors, said Chicago 2016 asked several in-depth questions that will be researched and responded to promptly. He also felt the questions indicated a positive interest in Walworth County.

Beyond that, neither could comment more on the nature of the 90-minute meeting, which included showing a professionally made DVD that highlighted the touted events and the area. Chicago officials have asked for a measure of confidentiality, Burkhardt said.

The local Olympics event promoters want to bring mountain biking to the Kettle Moraine State Forest near Whitewater, BMX biking to Alpine Valley Resort and have the cycling road races start in Chicago and wind through Racine and Kenosha counties before ending near the Kettle Moraine. Also possibilities are holding equestrian events in Spring Prairie Township and rowing to Delavan Lake.

UW-Whitewater is being touted as a training facility for Olympic athletes in the months leading up to the games.

Attending the meeting were Tom Schuler, a former Olympic cyclist who feels the area is suited perfectly to have a road cycling course; UW-Whitewater Athletics Director Dr. Paul Pienski; Steve Brunner of King of the Mountain Sports Marketing; Burkhardt and Waelti.

The focus has been on the cycling events. Having them clustered close by and on terrain suitable for world-class events should bode well for Walworth County in the eyes the Chicago 2016 committee and the International Olympic Committee, Burkhardt said earlier.

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

Other competing cities include Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo, Madrid, and Prague, Czech Republic.

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