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South Bend eyes role in Olympics

Rohan Anand | Wednesday, April 18, 2007

With Chicago aiming to play host to the 2016 summer Olympics, city leaders of South Bend have pondered appropriate roles they could play to enhance Chicago’s plan to win the international bidding war – though Notre Dame’s contribution to the effort remains uncertain.

The official application for host city is due to the International Olympic committee in September, and the IOC will announce its decision in October 2009. Until then, said Greg Ayers, executive director of the South Bend/Mishawaka Convention and Visitors Bureau, South Bend is wasting no time in forwarding ideas to Chicago’s bid committee.

“Right now, we’re identifying the right people to help Chicago compete internationally to host the Olympics,” he said. “So, over the next few days, our task will be to discuss appropriate roles we could play in helping Chicago’s bid.”

Ayers said the two resources South Bend could provide to the Olympic Games would be training facilities for the athletes and tourist sites for the spectators.

“Suppose that a team needs to find a last-minute venue to practice for the competition,” he said. “Our thoughts are that some of our venues can be utilized to help these athletes. By pointing these things out, we can show the city of Chicago that we can serve as responsible partners for them.”

Ayers said one site that would be potentially useful is for the canoe and kayak events in the East Race waterway just off downtown. East Race was the first artificial whitewater-rafting course built in North America. And since it is owned by the city of South Bend and managed by the Parks and Recreations Department, the U.S. Olympic Committee would be familiar with the site as a reliable venue.

Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White also has a connection to the Chicago bid as a member of the Chicago 2016 steering committee. But whether Notre Dame facilities could be used to help the bid is uncertain at this point.

“The extent of [White’s] involvement has been a couple of Chicago fundraising events,” senior associate athletic director John Heisler said in an e-mail Tuesday to The Observer. “There have not been any specific conversations relative to the use of any Notre Dame facilities in conjunction with the games.”

Still, Ayers said he thinks the attractiveness of Notre Dame’s renowned campus will help the Chicago bid, as far as tourism is concerned. This, in addition to the College Football Hall of Fame and the Studebaker National Museum, would draw spectators from Chicago who have extra time in between events.

“It would certainly generate the local economy,” he said, “and rally our community to serve people from around the globe.”