Area eyes potential Olympic windfall

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Friday, March 6, 2009
— The Janesville-Beloit area could see a piece of the expected $22 billion in economic action generated if the Summer Olympics are staged in Chicago in 2016.

While the games are more than seven years away, it's not too early to start preparing, said Bill Scherr, a board member of Chicago 2016, the group competing with Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo for the 2016 games.

If selected in October, Chicago plans to hold cycling events in the Madison area and shooting events near DeKalb, Ill.

The Janesville-Beloit area would be the natural place to house spectators who want to see the events, said Scherr, who won an NCAA wrestling championship, a world championship in 1985 and an Olympic bronze medal in 1988.

"There will certainly be a transitory benefit to the region," Scherr said in a phone interview Wednesday. "The economic impact is significant, and it stretches from now to the games and beyond."

The Janesville-Beloit area can expect visitors who either base here and travel to the different venues or pass through the area, he said. He also expects visitors in Chicago will make day trips around the region.

"There could be 500,000 to 1 million international visitors to Chicago for the games," he said. "Many of them will use their time here for the Olympics as well as other things, and I think it would be quite likely that many of them would wander up to the Janesville-Beloit area."

In addition to the tourism opportunities, the area could benefit from an influx of athletes.

"Teams will be here for a period of time before the games, training and adjusting to the climate," Scherr said. "There will certainly be opportunities for some of the universities in the area to house the teams."

While in Beijing for the 2008 games, Scherr noticed the marketing efforts of the region around London, which was awarded the 2012 games.

"There was a huge amount of that going, communities marketing themselves to teams and visitors," he said.

If Chicago is successful, Scherr said tens of thousands of volunteers will be needed. That presents area residents a unique opportunity to get involved.

Chicago 2016 recently submitted its final application, and members of the International Olympic Committee will visit Chicago in April. The committee will vote on which city will host the games Oct. 2.

Scherr said anyone interested in supporting Chicago's bid or volunteering can visit the group's Web site at www.chicago2016.org.

Last updated: 9:56 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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