If Chicago hosts 2016 Olympics, Walworth County wants events
(Published October. 4, 2006, 8:38 a.m.)
By Mike Heine/The Week
It may be long shot, but the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance is going for the gold.
WCEDA Monday asked the Walworth County Executive Committee for its blessing to try to host 2016 Summer Olympics events should Chicago be named the host city.
"We're not looking for a binding motion. It's essentially to get in front of the city of Chicago and see what kind of decision they want to make," said Fred Burkhardt, WCEDA executive director.
WCEDA is touting its Kettle Moraine State Forest area as a potential site for mountain biking events and the miles of rustic roads through rolling hills and prairies as road biking courses, said President Jerry Waelti.
To a lesser extent, WCEDA is also trying to bring equestrian and sailing events to the county, according to WCEDA.
The window of opportunity is closing quickly, but there is still a slight chance Walworth County may slip inside before Chicago's bid plans are forwarded to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
"We're four to six weeks away from making the largest, most impactful organizing that this young organization of seven or eight months could be making," Burkhardt said of WCEDA.
Early economic impact predictions for the area include the creation of about 2,000 new jobs in the area and $65 million spent on new construction, lodging, retail and marketing, Burkhardt said.
The executive committee unanimously OK'ed the proposal for WCEDA to move forward and hire a consultant to assist the effort. WCEDA is a private entity funded with $100,000 of county money.
"We will produce a Walworth County package to take us to Chicago," Burkhardt said. "If Chicago is successful (with the USOC), we'd have to be a part of the bidding process with Chicago. Once we sign on with the team, we go with the team."
The county needs to work fast, however.
Mark Jones, spokesman for Chicago 2016, said the city already forwarded its initial plan to the USOC and no venue locations are in Walworth County or Wisconsin. Chicago is competing with Los Angeles and San Francisco as possible U.S. Olympic sites.
"The theme of our Games is athlete-centered and compact Games," Jones said. "The compact nature is directed first and foremost to the athletes to make sure their experiences are as good as possible."
The farthest the initial plan extends from the downtown Chicago area is a shooting range in Joliet, Ill. Most of the events are tabbed for locations in and around the downtown area.
The biking and equestrian events are slated at the Palos and Sag Valley Forest Preserve in western Cook County.
Sailing events are for now on Lake Michigan, Burkhardt said.
"Those are our plans as of now," Jones said. "It certainly is a working document, but those are the preliminary plans, anyway."
The USOC traditionally likes a venue radius extending no farther than 120 miles, and extending into other states is favored by the USOC, Burkhardt said.
Members of the executive committee aired some caution about possible expenses should the plan take flight. It is too early to give estimates, but Burkhardt foresaw more private-sector dollars funding Olympic infrastructure than public money.
"I don't see any downsides to saying we're interested," he said, noting Walworth County could see road and rail improvements if it were a venue host. "If at a future date we decide not to go forward, that is a decision that we can make at a time in the future with information that we do not have now."
Mike Bettinger, owner of the LaGrange General store and the Backyard Bike Shop, was excited about the possibility of Olympic cycling events in the area.
"I think it's great. We'll get lots of exposure," he said. "Still, even if we don't have it, we'll get it if (the Olympics) are in Chicago."
** SIDEBARS **
2016 Olympic Bid Timeline
Feb. 8, 2006-Copenhagen, Denmark, selected as host city for 2009 Olympic Congress and final 2016 bid vote
May 8-18, 2006 -U.S. Olympic Committee visits mayors of Houston (May 8), Philadelphia (May 9), Chicago (May 10), Los Angeles (May 18) and San Francisco (May 18) for two-hour assessment meetings
July 26, 2006-USOC narrows nomination short list to Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. USOC still hasn't decided whether to bid
Aug. 30, 2006-Japan Olympic Committee nominated Tokyo over Fukuoka for 2016 bid
Sept. 1, 2006-Brazil's Olympic Committee nominates Rio de Janeiro for 2016 bid
March 2007-If it decides to nominate a bid, the USOC will make its final selection based on presentations and bid books
October 2009-Olympic Congress selects 2016 Olympic city in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Other cities/countries reportedly vying for 2016 Games
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Hamburg or Berlin, Germany
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
St. Petersburg, Russia
Tel Aviv, Israel
Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, United States
Summer Olympics Sites
St. Louis 1904
Los Angeles 1932
Mexico City 1968
Los Angeles 1984
Olympic Cycling Events
-- Road racing - Four events make up the Olympic road-racing program. The road races begin with mass starts. The men race over 239 kilometers and the women over 120 kilometers. The time trials are raced against the clock, with riders starting at 90-second intervals. In those, the men race over 46.8 kilometers, the women over 31.2 kilometers.
-- Mountain biking - First appearing at the 1996 Atlanta Games, cross-country mountain biking events sees riders pedaling over a very hilly - sometimes mountainous-course, usually on natural terrain. They may need to maneuver over trees, branches, rocks and streams.
Men race between 40 and 50 kilometers and women cover 30 to 40 kilometers.
-- BMX - Approved by the International Olympic Committee as an event in 2003, bicycle motocross will first appear at the 2008 Games in Beijing, China.
BMX races are held on circuits of about 350 meters, including jumps, banked corners and other obstacles. Eight riders compete in each heat (qualifying rounds, quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals), with the top four qualifying for the next round.
-- Track racing - Riders race around a 'velodrome,' a track banked with 42-degree corners.
The full program includes individual and team events, sprint and endurance races, pursuits, time trials and first-over-the-line finishes.
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