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As Chicagoans hold their collective breath until October, when the host for the 2016 Olympic Games will be announced, Evanstonians, too, seem to be waiting to exhale.
At a presentation to Evanston Chamber of Commerce members that was sponsored by the 2016 Olympic Bid Committee, Gyata Kimmons gave an overview of what Evanston can expect, should Chicago get the bid: economic enhancement and a chance to create a Chicago Olympic legacy.
The 2016 Olympic Games are scheduled for July 22 through Aug. 7, with the Para-Olympics scheduled to take place shortly afterward, Aug. 12-28, Mr. Kimmons said.
Evanston would host the modern pentathlon, he said, a five-event competition combining, swimming, shooting (laser-rifles), fencing, running and an equestrian event – all at Northwestern University facilities: Norris Aquatic Center, Ryan Field and Welsh-Ryan Arena. There will be two 1-day competitions with 30 to 40 competitors in each event, he added.
“Don’t expect huge numbers,” Mr. Kimmons said, adding that the City could expect fewer than 50,000 visitors over the 17-day period of athletic competitions.” He added, “People will be on foot, coming by public transportation,” so parking would not likely be a problem. He added that these visitors would likely be looking for “places to eat, places to hang out.”
If Chicago receives the Olympic bid, Mr. Kimmons said, the economic impact on the area would encompass about 11 years – five years beforehand, one year of the games and five years afterward. “The games could bring up to $5.5 billion to the outer areas and 150,000 jobs to the collar counties,” he added.
Sustainability will also be a focus of the 2016 Olympics if the are held in Chicago, Mr., Kimmons said. “We’ll be using existing buildings. Of the 27 venues, 22 will be temporary or already exist,” he added.
Misperceptions about Chicago abound, Mr. Kimmons said. People still think of Chicago as the stockyards and Al Capone. “One of the most frequently heard comments by the visiting Olympic bid committee was ‘That’s not a lake; I can’t see the other side.” Putting their Chicago area on display would be a matter of pride for its citizens. In addition, said Mr. Kimmons, “We want to expand the Olympic and Para-Olympic legacy by having [former Olympic and Para-Olympic] athletes appear in schools, parks, libraries and other public places” for outreach and goodwill throughout the Chicago area.”
“The Chicago Olympics will be much greater than the 17 days of preparing for the games and the 17 days of games. It is how we are building up [to the games] and leaving a legacy [that counts as well].”
Meanwhile, said Mr. Kimmons, Chicago-area events with an international flavor, such as Evanston’s hosting of one leg of the Grand Prix of Cycling in mid-July, will help keep the spotlight here.
Doug Gaynor, director of Parks/Forestry and Recreation for the City, told the audience that he, the police chief and the fire chief “have been working with the International Olympic Committee to make sure our City is prepared. If we’re fortunate enough to get the bid, we’ll have seven years of preparation – and we will be ready.”
In addition, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl proclaimed yesterday “Olympic Day” in Evanston. Olympic Day is a worldwide commemoration of Baron Pierre de Coubertin’s June 23, 1894, convening of the first International Olympic Committee at the Sorbonne in Paris and the founding of the modern Olympic Games.