BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
Oprah Winfrey stole the show at Monday night's Olympic gala, and her star power to persuade International Olympic Committee members cannot be overstated, Mayor Daley said today.
"She steals the show any time, to be very frank," Daley said. "She talked to all the delegates. She talked to everybody there. She was very open and friendly about Chicago.
"She told a great story [about] when she came here in '83, how she came off the plane and just fell in love with the city, signed a contract with Dennis Swanson from Channel 7. She's always loved the city. She's an individual you admire because from whence she came. She's been very, very successful, and she gives back into the community. She has a huge impact on the world on many, many issues -- more than anyone else." Daley said Winfrey took pictures with a number of people at the dinner in the Art Institute's new wing, but she wasn't alone in making the city's pitch.
"We had people at every table [who] talked about Chicago with each IOC member," Daley said. "There's a great 'I Will' spirit that we have right here. You could see it last night. And you could see it all during the weekend .People really want the Olympic and Paralympics to come to Chicago in 2016." The biggest-ticket item in Chicago's $4.8 billion Olympic plan is the $976 million Olympic Village that would be built on the campus of Michael Reese Hospital, with help from a tax-increment-financing subsidy that City Hall has yet to quantify.
Daley sought to ease concerns about developer financing.
"The village is gonna be built whether we have the Olympics or not," the mayor said. "You have to understand that We have mentioned that a hundred times. That's very, very important both for affordable housing and market-rate housing at Michael Reese."
"And the amenities are huge for us in regards to federal money dealing with public transportation, security, technology and other infrastructure After that, we think we have a very good guarantee. We think we can deal with any issue confronting us." Among the four 2016 Olympic finalist cities, Chicago is the only one that hasn't given a blanket guarantee against Olympic losses. Instead, the games here would be bankrolled by private donations, with a safety net including insurance and backup guarantees from the city and state.
It's been 25 years since the IOC has awarded the Olympics to a city whose bid did not include a blanket guarantee. But Daley made no apologies for the lack of one.
"Across the world, the national government is everything," Daley said. "They don't have cities like ours. They don't have states like ours. They don't.
They have no power. The power rests in America in communities like ours and states. That's where the power is. It doesn't only rest in Washington Other countries don't have that balance of power." With layoffs mounting, the mayor was asked whether he's concerned about Chicago 2016's ability to squeeze contributions out of financially strapped corporations here.
By then, Daley said, "We hope we're gonna be out of this recession. It's gonna take a little longer than anybody expected. But 2016 is quite far off as compared to, unfortunately, London has 2012 and Vancouver has 2012."