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Businesses get Olympic pitch

Evanston is well equipped to play a role in hosting the 2016 Olympic games.

That was the message to Chamber of Commerce members today from officials involved in promoting the Chicago area’s bid to host the summer games that year.

At a breakfast meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn, Gyata Kimmons, the director of community relations for the Olympic bid committee, said hosting the modern pentathalon event on the Northwestern University campus would likely bring less than 50,000 spectators to town.

"So it sounds like an NU-Wisconsin football game," Simmons, who grew up in Evanston, said.

NU athletic director Jim Phillips called the games "a phenomenal opportunity to showcase this wonderful city."

Evanston parks chief Doug Gaynor said city officials are confident the community is ready to host the event — based on its experience over the past two years with hosting an international cycling competition downtown.

"We have to wait until Oct. 2," to learn whether Chicago will get the games, Gaynor said, "but then we’ll have seven years for preparation and the city will be ready."

Chicago is competing with Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro to host the games.

Kimmons offered no specifics on the likely impact of the games for Evanston businesses, but said that overall they are expected to generate $22.5 billion in economic activity for the region.

He said spectators are expected to travel to the events by public transportation and are likely to be looking for dining and shopping opportunities on the way to and from the venues.

The games are also expected to provide a boon to local hotels, given Evanston’s location on mass transit routes that lead to many of the Chicago venues.

The modern pentathalon involves swimming, shooting, fencing, equestrian and running events. The swimming would take place at the Norris Aquatic Center. All the other events would be at Welch Ryan Arena.

In response to a question, Kimmons noted that there’s no actual gunfire in the shooting event — the competitors use laser guns. "That was one of the big things the police chief asked us about," he added to laughter from the audience.

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