USOC keeps bid process moving for Los Angeles, Chicago

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DENVER (AP) – Confident Chicago or Los Angeles can earn the international support needed to land the 2016 Summer Games, the U.S. Olympic Committee will move forward with plans to put one of America’s iconic cities on the ballot later this year.

“At this point in the process, we feel we can be competitive,” international vice president Bob Ctvrtlik said Tuesday, when the USOC announced it was continuing with the bid process.

The widely expected decision was the latest step in a monthslong process led by the USOC to coordinate the bid process and avoid a repeat of New York’s failed attempt to land the 2012 Olympics.

The USOC has canvassed leaders in the international community to gauge their interest in bringing the Olympics back to the United States for the first time since the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, which were tainted by scandal and sullied the United States’ reputation.

“Based on our analysis, we believe the time is right for a U.S. city to bid, and we fully intend to proceed with a unified, national effort to bring the Games back to America in 2016,” said USOC chairman Peter Ueberroth, who brought the games to Los Angeles in 1984.

The USOC decision was the latest of several important milestones.

The next one comes Jan. 22, when the cities will submit their bid books, which are three-volumes of extensively detailed descriptions of their plans.

About five weeks after that, a USOC evaluation team will conduct two-day technical evaluations in each city.

On April 14, the evaluation team will present its findings to the USOC board of directors, cities will make their final presentations and the candidate city will be chosen.

The candidate city must be submitted to the International Olympic Committee on Sept. 15. The host will be chosen in 2009.

Los Angeles is considered an early favorite by some because the city has all but one of the main venues in place.

“We obviously don’t have the kind of issues we would have if we were doing construction,” LA bid committee chairman Barry Sanders said.

“We have every reason not to expect cost overruns that have been seen in other Olympics. When you’re not building, you can do pretty reliable financial projections.”

A refurbished LA Coliseum would be used for opening and closing ceremonies and for track. Sanders said the city’s bid is not beholden to the NFL, which could pay for many improvements to the Coliseum if it gives Los Angeles a team.

San Francisco’s bid was pulverized in November when the 49ers suddenly announced they would not build a new stadium in the city.

Chicago is planning a new stadium near Washington Park for ceremonies and track. The Olympic Village and most events would be in the inner-city, using the Lake Michigan waterfront as a centerpiece.

It figures to be a more costly endeavor than the Los Angeles bid, and the finances are not all worked out. But Chicago 2016 chairman Patrick Ryan said the committee already has $25 million in the bank – $5 million more than the USOC expects the cities to have by March 31.

Also, some believe Chicago has an advantage, because it will keep the venues close together, eliminating the specter of LA sprawl.

Ryan said concentrating everything in the city means 85 percent of the athletes will have to travel 15 minutes or less.

“We think that our games are going to be very athlete sensitive,” he said.

Another perceived Chicago advantage is it never has hosted an Olympics, while Los Angeles already has hosted two.

Other cities that have expressed interest in hosting the 2016 Games are Madrid, New Delhi, Prague, Rio de Janeiro, Rome and Tokyo.

The USOC has patterned its selection process after the one used by the IOC. The process has been part of a bigger task to improve the USOC’s standing in the international community, an effort Ueberroth and other leaders said they believe will play largely in the United States’ chances of landing the games.

“Hopefully, the strength of our plans gave the USOC confidence that the United States could win on the international level,” Ryan said.



Associated Press writer Deanna Bellandi in Chicago contributed to this report.

AP-ES-01-09-07 1754EST

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