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Group seeks help selling Chicago for Olympics
By Eric Peterson | Daily Herald Staff

Michael Murnane, who does PR for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid, talks to the Schaumburg Business Association Tuesday about the potential impact on suburban businesses.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Richard Augustine, left, of R.J. Augustine and Assocs. Ltd., shares a laugh with Mike Murnane after Murnane spoke to the Schaumburg Business Association about Chicago 2016 Olympics host bid.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 11/11/2008 11:56 AM

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Raising their international profiles has provided long-term economic benefits for the last several Olympic host cities, particularly those of the Summer Games.

That's the belief and motivation behind the not-for-profit Chicago 2016 group that's campaigning for the Second City's chance to be No. 1 when the selection is announced next Oct. 2.

For the time being, though, the organization is content with Chicago's roughly third-place ranking among the four remaining candidates. Marketing and community relations representative Michael Murnane said the top-ranked city has never become the host in the last several selections.

Murnane spoke to the Schaumburg Business Association Tuesday morning at its monthly breakfast meeting.

He explained Chicago 2016's desire to improve both the Olympics and the city of Chicago, win or lose, along with the organization's need for both volunteers and donations from the general public.

The group currently has 45 full-time staff members and about 6,000 volunteers. Beijing ended up with anywhere between 100,000 and a million volunteers, according to different reports, so Chicago will probably need at least 75,000, Murnane said.

He explained the relative strengths of Chicago and its four competitors for the bid.

Madrid was already a strong finalist for the 2012 Games and knows what it's doing. Rio de Janeiro is benefiting from the fact that the supposedly international Olympics have never been hosted in South America. Tokyo has the experience of having hosted the Games in 1964 and is in the midst of a 10-year improvement plan.

"One of our strengths, believe it or not, is our transportation system," Murnane said.

Auto traffic to and from the Olympic venues would be discouraged, making attendance of events far different from driving to a Bears game, he added. But Metra and the RTA have proven themselves effective in moving people around the city and region.

Some of the outlying economic benefits would lie in areas where spectators are getting on the train, Murnane said. Athletes themselves are expected to be housed within 15 minutes of their venues.

Only five new venues would need to be built to handle the Olympics in 2016, including an aquatics center in the city and an equestrian center in Lake County, Murnane said.

His organization is also working to show that the Games could be hosted in an environmentally friendly way and is cooperating with a new group called World Sport Chicago, which is trying to make Olympic-style sports seem as exciting and accessible to local youth as video games.

An evaluation committee is expected to visit Chicago in early April, six months before the final decision is made.

Murnane said anyone interested in volunteering or donating to the campaign should visit Chicago2016.org.