I was in Chicago this week, and let me tell you: The Windy City is ready for the Olympics. Businesses around the city are sporting banners proclaiming "We Back the Bid;" the docent on an architecture tour told me Chicago would add a fifth red star to the city's flag if the games are awarded; and the city's most famous (and powerful) residents are in Copenhagen to vouch for Chicago.
Chicagoans, as well as residents of Madrid, Rio Di Janeiro, and Tokyo, will find out later today if the International Olympic Committee has chosen their city for the 2016 games. But for travelers, the news is important and exciting as well. Hundreds of thousands will flock to the games, but countless travelers benefit from the upgraded infrastructure that accompanies any Olympiad. Travelers to Athens now enjoy a first-class airport and rapid transit system, and visitors to Beijing can tour the state-of-the-art Olympic facilities and cutting edge architecture constructed for last year's games. Most host cities see growth in the hotel offerings and other traveler facilities as well, and these additions to the city's tourism industry benefit travelers well beyond the games themselves.
For Chicago, hosting the summer games would be an honor shared with only three other U.S. cities (Atlanta in 1996, L.A. in 1984 and 1932, and St. Louis in 1904). As a world-class city somewhat (arguably) obscured by the long shadow of New York, the games would be a fantastic opportunity to showcase itself on the global stage. The games would be concentrated in the heart of downtown, highlighting the city's amazing architecture and beautiful waterfront. Events would be held in well-known locations such as Grant Park and Millennium Park, on Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, and in Soldier Field.
So with apologies to the rest of the final candidates, I have to say my fingers are crossed for Chicago. There are numerous ways to follow the proceedings today, both online and on television. If you're in Chicago, a rally is planned in Daley Plaza at nine this morning. I'll also report back here with the results of the International Olympic Committee's vote.
Readers, where do you think the 2016 Olympics should be held? Leave a comment below with your vote. Thanks!
**Update, 1:10 p.m: It's Rio! Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Summer Olympics. This will be the first Olympiad held in South America.