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Published: Friday, 10/2/2009

Chicagoans stunned over decision to stage 2016 Olympics in Rio

ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHICAGO — So much for Da Games.

Chicago residents felt blindsided Friday as the International Olympic Committee quickly eliminated their hometown from the race to host the 2016 Summer Games.

Stunned disbelief stretched from the South Side to Wrigleyville as the Second City learned it wasn't even second fiddle, but fourth out of the four finalists.

As Chicagoans attempted to deal with their disbelief, nearly 50,000 people cheered in celebration when Rio de Janeiro was announced as host of the 2016 Olympics, jumping and shouting in a carnival-like party on Copacabana beach..

“I was shocked. I was disappointed. I couldn't believe it,” said Mayor Richard M. Daley, who didn't even have time to get to the voting ceremony in Copenhagen before the IOC bounced Chicago en route to picking Rio de Janeiro.

The 67-year-old mayor who spent three years touting the games as a boon for Chicago — many said landing the games would secure his legacy — said another bid was unlikely.

“At this time it is [unlikely],” Mr. Daley said. “If it's in our hemisphere it has to move somewhere else.”

Mr. Daley had said the Olympics would lead to new construction and jobs, while drawing in federal money to help fix a mass transit system in need of an estimated $10 billion overhaul.

“I was hoping this would pick up Chicago's economy, and now I feel pushed even farther from finding a job,” said Vince Monaco, an unemployed 35-year-old in the city.

“Since we went out in the first round, I think someone in the IOC has a chip on their shoulder against the U.S.”

Thousands of people stood in bewilderment in downtown Chicago after watching the IOC vote on huge television screens set up in Daley Plaza, named for the mayor's father. The choice of Chicago as the host city seemed so likely to many still basking in the glow of hometown Sen. Barack Obama's election as president a year ago.

There was an audible gasp as IOC President Jacques Rogge announced: “The city of Chicago, having obtained the least number of votes, will not participate in the next round.”

Katie Suitor, a 28-year-old social worker, had already signed up to be an Olympics volunteer.

“I was looking forward to having the world come and see just how great Chicago is,” she said.

The Chicago bid had plenty of homegrown firepower, from Oprah Winfrey to First Lady Michelle Obama, a South Side native. Both spent two days in Copenhagen charming and chatting up members of the IOC.

President Obama joined them Friday and the first couple were part of Chicago's presentation to the IOC, though Air Force One left for the U.S. before the voting began.

Randy Wood, 49, of San Diego said the IOC clearly wasn't swayed by Mr. Obama's influence and the early elimination reflects poorly on the president.

“Maybe his clout stopped at the Pacific and the Atlantic,” Mr. Wood said at the Chicago rally.

With Chicago well-known for public corruption and problems with public services, opponents had serious concerns about Olympics-sized hassles and bills, despite assurances by Mayor Daley and bid organizers that taxpayers wouldn't owe a dime.

Perhaps not surprisingly in a city where a billy goat curse gets some of the blame for the Cubs' failure to win a World Series since 1908, the IOC decision quickly triggered various theories as to why Chicago lost.

“Maybe it's possible we overwhelmed them with all our celebrity power,” offered Jennifer Bruch, a 33-year-old Chicagoan.

Others, though, said they were just sad that the world would not have a chance to see that Chicago is a modern, vibrant city and not a gritty industrial center with belching smokestacks and Al Capone-like wiseguys calling all the shots.

“They're missing history, they're missing culture, they're missing a beautiful lakefront, said Georgia Evans, a 60-year-old patients' advocate. “It's a wonderful place.”



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