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IOC member Cinquanta: Chicago the favorite

June 18, 2009 | 11:07 am

Cinquanta LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Ottavio Cinquanta of Italy is unsparing in his praise of U.S. contributions to sport.

That is among the reasons why Cinquanta, an International Olympic Committee member and president of the International Skating Union, likes the Chicago bid for the 2016 Summer Games.

"To me, Chicago is the favorite,''  Cinquanta said Thursday. "Why? The dossier is excellent and, for me, yet again, it is a matter of the U.S. contribution to sport. The U.S. has given [the world] athletes, organization, television and innovation in competition.

"The candidatures are from cities, but the cities are in countries, and what Chicago's country has done for sport in general over the years is very important.''

Cinquanta said his IOC colleagues have been impressed by a change in U.S. attitude toward the world.

"My colleagues much prefer the American approach of today to the one of seven-eight months ago,'' Cinquanta said. "It is the friendly American. And now their attitude is not 'the world needs Chicago' but that 'Chicago needs the world.' ''

Cinquanta also said he was impressed that the U.S. presented another candidate after New York was next-to-last of five in the 2012 bid race.

"This is an expresssion of dignity and being a sportsman,'' Cinquanta said.

European Olympic Committees President Pat Hickey of Ireland, who sat with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley during a Wednesday lunch at the Olympic Museum, said he is solidly behind Madrid after the EOC gave it a strong vote of support.

IOC member Richard Pound of Canada said Madrid may be "handicapped because it has to split the votes of the Hispanic world.''  He figures some will go to Madrid and others to Rio de Janeiro, in a Portuguese-speaking country in South America, which never has had an Olympics.

Pound said Chicago can "only gain from the exposure it gained'' in three days of close contact with IOC members, both before and after Wednesday's presentations.

"Competing with world capitals, Chicago was starting a meter back,'' Pound said. "Not many IOC members know Chicago and how good it is.''

IOC member Kevan Gosper of Australia also is impressed with Chicago.

"Each candidate brings its own strengths, but the Chicago presentation of venues on the waterfront of a great city has to be taken seriously,'' Gosper said.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: IOC member Ottavio Cinquanta speaks during a press conference at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Credit: Lionel Cironneau / Associated Press