In 2006, Chicago took on the monumental task of staging a bid for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Thanks to a conversation at a summer party with Olympian Diane Simpson-Bundy (rhythmic gymnastics 1988), I soon found myself participating in a press conference at Washington Park with bid leaders Patrick Ryan and Mayor Richard M. Daley along with several of my Olympic and Paralympic colleagues.
Soon after, I was part of the presentation team that sold the United States Olympic Committee on Chicago as a host city. And then the work really began! Over the next three years, I found myself on a whirlwind of press conferences, speaking engagements, and travel to all corners of the globe promoting Chicago’s ability to host a spectacular Olympic and Paralympic Games. I worked with a tremendous team of people to promote our Paralympic Games plan, and to ensure that accessibility for people with disabilities remained at the forefront of all our work.
Chicago passed the first hurdle when the “short list” was announced in the summer of 2008. From the original list of competitor cities, Chicago, Rio, Tokyo and Madrid got the nod that they would proceed to the final presentation. Less than a year later, the International Olympic Committee’s Evaluation Commission came to visit Chicago to hear about our plan and learn about our city. I was involved in several of the presentations over the days of their visit, including the opening session.
For the next six months after their visit, we prepared for the final presentation which would take place in Copenhagen on October 2, 2009. I learned that I would be part of that presentation team as well, which was one of the biggest honors of my life. I was part of a team that included President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Mayor Daley, Patrick Ryan, Anita DeFrantz and Jim Easton (our US IOC members), Larry Probst (USOC Board Chairman), Doug Arnot, and Olympic decathlon champion Bryan Clay.
We were joined in Copenhagen by many of our Chicago 2016 colleagues and hundreds of our supporters, including Chicago’s own Oprah. This was it—showtime! I have never been prouder than when I stepped on that stage in front of the International Olympic Committee that morning. Though there were only a few of us on stage, we were representing so much more—the hard work of hundreds of staff and consultants, the dedication of thousands of volunteers, not to mention the hope of a city, and of a nation to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games back to US soil. If only that had been enough!
Within a few short hours we learned that Rio de Janeiro had been selected to host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Though it wasn’t the result we expected, wanted or hoped for, I am proud to say I was part of this great effort. I still believe that Chicago would be a fantastic host for an Olympic and Paralympic Games, and hope that some day we get the chance to show the world the city I hold dear.