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The Olympic effect

Sandy Bressner –
Samantha Jenson, 11, jumps with her show pony, Moonshine, while practicing at her family's horse farm in Campton Hills Friday. Samantha, along with her sister, Nicole, 13, and her mom, Deb, said they would be excited if Chicago is named the host city of the 2016 Olympics.
Sandy Bressner – Samantha Jenson, 11, jumps with her show pony, Moonshine, while practicing at her family's horse farm in Campton Hills Friday. Samantha, along with her sister, Nicole, 13, and her mom, Deb, said they would be excited if Chicago is named the host city of the 2016 Olympics.

It's the summer of 2016. You live in St. Charles and work for a large corporation in Chicago.

Things are at a standstill for big business downtown, especially for big corporations located in skyscrapers along the lakefront and in the Loop, and you have been given two weeks vacation because of the Olympics.

Encouraged by your employer, you volunteer to shuttle visitors back-and-forth to O'Hare and Midway Airports.

Your next-door neighbor doesn't like crowds and he always wanted to travel to Europe and left before the opening ceremonies. He signed up with an Internet-based business that arranged a house-swap with a couple from Switzerland, who came here to watch soccer.

"Guetä Morgä," they greet you at the start of the day as you're on your way out to your car for the volunteer shuttle job.

The rapid-transit system – normally used by commuters – for the most part has been reserved for athletes, event officials and dignitaries. But extra buses have been provided to the region by the federal government to help keep the region mobile.

At some Olympic venues and major byways, a kind of martial law has been imposed. There are roadblocks and checkpoints and cops asking to see your ID. 

You stop by a coffee shop in Geneva to get a double latte. Standing in in line in front of you is the famous weightlifter from Russia and a skinny marathon runner from Kenya.

"It will be bizarro world ... but in a good way," said Sue Klinkhamer, former Mayor of St. Charles, describing the Olympic experience she anticipates if Chicago does indeed get the 2016 Olympics.

Klinkhamer worked as a lobbyist in Washington D.C. for nearly three years trying to get federal law-makers on board with Mayor Richard Daly's plan to bring the Olympics to Chicago.

"Hopefully, we'll get [the Olympics]," said Deb Jenson, who owns Horseshoe Inn in Campton Hills. Jenson is a horse-riding instructor who owns five horses and said the Tri-Cities equestrian community is "abuzz" with anticipation.

"I'd take my daughters [Nicole, 13, and Samantha, 11] and some of my students to watch," Jenson said. "This area has a huge equestrian community."

Jenson explained that there are three phases to equestrian competition that would require a lot of space and she anticipates the venue for the event happening somewhere in the suburbs.

Mark Hill, a Geneva resident out Thursday morning walking his dog on Third Street, wants Chicago to get the Olympics but says he would not attend any events.

"I'll watch it on T.V.," Hill said. "It'll be good for Chicago to be on the world scene. But I wouldn't venture downtown. I don't like large crowds. It will be hardest on people that live in the city."

Klinkhamer said there will be an "Olympic spill-over" that will affect the Tri-Cities.

Phil Hahn, owner of Hahn Bakery in Geneva, agreed that the event would have an impact on the Tri-Cities in general and his business in particular.

"There would be a small boon for business," Hahn said, adding that Olympic visitors looking for a German-style bakery wouldn't have any problems finding his place because of the Internet.

"Most people in business will be happy if the Olympics came here," Hahn said. "It would be best if they can put a cap on the liability to the city [of Chicago]."

Klinkhamer acknowledged that the Olympics would bring changes that could be aggravating and inconvenient for many people.

But, she said, instead of getting upset by the temporary change of routine for two weeks – or four weeks if you count the Paralympic Games that follow – you should treat the Olympics as a rare experience, a chance to show off your hometown and be hospitable to visitors from around the world.

"It's about spirit," Klinkhamer said. "Volunteer. Be a ticket-taker at an equestrian event or pick up people at the airport.

"They will need millions of volunteers. There will be a lot more volunteer positions available than paid positions."

The host city for 2016 will be announced in October. The field of prospects has been narrowed to Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. Some pundits say Chicago has the edge because President Barack Obama is behind it and Chicago is his hometown.

Amy Egolf, executive director of the St. Charles Convention & Visitors Bureau, said if Chicago gets the nod, expect to see immediate effects, with a number of visitors arriving in the region to do the spadework for the big event.

Egolf said five hotels in St. Charles signed agreements to set aside 400 rooms for Olympic travelers.

Egolf said when it comes to travel, Chicago has always been considered a "second-tier city" and the Olympics might turn it into first-choice destination, on par with New York or San Francisco.

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