The 11 million people who live in the second and third largest cities in the U.S. are on pins and needles as they wait to learn which city will represent America in the international competition for host of the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley led large pep rallies Friday in advance of an announcement by the U.S. Olympic Committee scheduled for Saturday at 4 p.m. EDT.
Both mayors told TODAY that their local committees are prepared and anxious for the chance to compete against a half-dozen international contenders vying to host the 2016 games.
"This is the city where the world comes together," Villaraigosa told TODAY host Matt Lauer, as a large crowd gathered at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion cheered the Los Angeles mayor on. "We have more Olympic sports facilities than any place in the United States ... It is a city that is ready for the Olympics, and some 90 percent of the city supports this Olympic bid."
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Los Angeles has most of the facilities it needs to host the games because it hosted the games for the second time as recently as 1984.
Chicago has never hosted the Olympics, but its transit system, famous lakefront area and ability to raise funds make it a strong contender for the USOC's backing, too.
"The City of Chicago wants to represent this great country," said Mayor Richard Daley, who led a competing rally at Chicago's Millennium Park during his appearance on TODAY. "We are proud of our city. We are proud of America. We want to host what America stands for, the ideals of betterment of a community. [We want] at the same time to bring an Olympic legacy to our great city."
Tale of two cities
The fact that Los Angeles hosted the 1932 and 1984 summer games should not be a mark against the city, said John Naber, former Olympic swimmer and vice president of the Southern Cal Committee for Olympic Games.
"We don't feel it should be ... The Olympic movement rewards success. We don't think the games are something the Olympics would be doing for Los Angeles," Naber said. "We think this is an opportunity for Los Angeles to do something once again for the Olympic movement."
There is, however, a lot at stake for the potential host cities. The potential economic impact has been estimated in the billions of dollars — money from everything from merchandising and ticket sales, to construction and tourism.
Regardless of which city emerges as the U.S. candidate from the final USOC meeting Saturday in Washington, D.C., the contender will have to survive bids from Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and a half-dozen other international cities before laying claim to the 2016 games.
The International Olympic Committee will name the 2016 host city in 2009.
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