Ryan Q&A (cont.)
SI.com: There is a history of bidding cities that are considered favorites who don't win. I get a sense from you and [USOC board chairman] Peter Ueberroth that you don't want to be considered favorites.
Ryan: We don't and I would say we're not the favorites. We understand the history and I don't think anybody's a favorite right now. I'm a firm believer in the six-weeks, six-day, six-hour, six-minute phenomenon of when people make their decisions. So we're just going about
SI.com: It was very helpful for London to have Tony Blair do the legwork, especially the last-minute legwork, that he did in Singapore to help them win the bid for 2012. Will it matter who wins the election and will it matter if [Barack] Obama or [John] McCain is proactive in support of the bid.
Ryan: Both candidates have publicly stated their support for our bid. I agree that it was very important for Tony Blair to be there for London and also for Mr. [Vladimir] Putin to be there on behalf of Sochi to articulate their support in the persuasive ways they both did. We believe we have the commitment from each of the presidential candidates that they will do the same. I think it's critical. I think the IOC wants to know that wherever they are going, there is support all the way through the various branches of government to the local community. I think our Mayor [Richard] Daley has done extremely well with the IOC members in terms of communicating what the bid's all about, and I think we'll get the same support from whoever wins the election.
SI.com: Blair went to Singapore on the eve of the G-8 summit, a very busy time for him. Do you believe either candidate would be willing to go to Copenhagen next fall to offer their support and meet one-on-one with IOC members as he did?
Ryan: I think they have both said they will offer their support to the full extent that they can. I would hope, if it's possible -- you have to be realistic in that if there were some crisis, they couldn't just drop that -- but I interpret the support to mean we'll do whatever we can to help you, and that if they will each make every attempt to go.
SI.com: I'm sure you don't want to talk about "what if it doesn't happen?" But could a Chicago bid sustain itself for 2020, if necessary?
Ryan: We don't want to look at it that way, but let me say this: Chicago is already benefiting from the bid process. I personally have never seen it more bonded, more unified than it is over this initiative. It is already making an impact in the city. For example, we are already partnering with the MacArthur Foundation, Chicago Community Trust, the McCormick Foundation to development programs that will benefit the youth of the city and that will be in place at the time of the selection. Even if we don't win, that will have a profound impact on the city of Chicago.
SI.com: For those who drop in on Chicago periodically, what will be different about the infrastructure and physical appearance of the city as this process proceeds?
Ryan: There is an eyesore on the near South Side lakefront. That will be replaced by this beautiful new residential living. It will include affordable housing. It will open that part of the lakefront to a community that is somewhat isolated from the utilization of the lakefront, the African-American community. So there will be this fantastic near South Side urban development plan that will greatly enhance the quality of life for that part of the city. That's irrespective of whether we win. The city has been undergoing a beautification and a development that is somewhat unprecedented. I don't know if you've seen the area around Millennium Park, but it is booming. I think irrespective of winning, we'll develop new sport facilities that people will get excited about. If we don't win, they're still going to want to go through with the state-of-the-art aquatic center and additional facilities. We have something called World Sport Chicago that we developed two and a half years ago. It is bringing Olympic sport to the high schools in the park district. That will go forward irrespective of whether we win, so there is already a legacy.
SI.com: The most famous athlete in Chicago is someone I haven't seen very involved with the bid. Is Michael Jordan going to be more involved, given the fact that he is not only a sport figure who is widely recognized worldwide, but he is also a two-time Olympic champion?
Ryan: Michael agreed to help us, but he has a very busy schedule, so he said, "I'll help you when you tell me you really need me." We're going to count on that, because he will help us.
SI.com: Finally, when you're here, what happens when you cross paths with an IOC member who holds your fate in his hands or her hands? Give me a sense of how pre-planned or random those exchanges are and what do you say?
Ryan: There is a lot of random contact and it is very important to respect their privacy and their schedules. We want to maintain relationships without getting in anyone's face. But we do have scheduled meetings at USA House for lunch or dinner. They are anxious to see the Chicago room that explains the bid. We had a reception the other night. That gave us an opportunity to meet IOC members we hadn't met. But also, this is really an interim process. That's why it's been important to be at every sanctioned opportunity we've had. You get to a point where they know you and you know them.
SI.com: You obviously have things that you want to communicate about Chicago when you have their ear. What sort of things to ask you when they have your ear?
Ryan: A very common question is the visa issue. They want to go where they're really wanted. A lot of them will say 'I didn't know this about Chicago.' I lot of them didn't know we were on this fantastically beautiful lake that's so very large. They think of a lake on a much smaller scale. They ask questions about the political commitment. They're very well versed about the presidential campaign.
SI.com: They may know more about it than most Americans.
Ryan: Absolutely, I think they do.