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NATO Summit Still A Major Showcase For Chicago

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Vince Gerasole Vince Gerasole
Vince Gerasole serves as a general assignment reporter for CBS 2...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Despite the G8 summit being moved from Chicago to Camp David, the NATO summit still earmarked for the same weekend in Chicago remains a major event, drawing thousands of representatives from 28 countries.

As CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, the NATO summit stands to bring a global boost to the city, and will still present significant security challenges.

A major trade expo, like the International Home and Housewares Show, generates tens of millions of dollars for the city. Those who market Chicago to the world say a NATO summit alone, bringing up to 7,000 delegates to the city, can still have that kind of impact.

“In a perfect world, it would have been great to have both G8 and NATO at the same time,” said Don Welsh, president and CEO of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau.

Welsh said the NATO summit will still draw thousands of journalists, who will write about Chicago.

“If you get 2,500 to 3,000 journalists coming into the city … what a great opportunity to showcase the city to the international community,” Welsh said.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance between the U.S. and nations in Western Europe, created during the Cold War.

“An attack against one is considered an attack against all the members of the organization,” Northwestern University Professor Ian Hurd said.

But, since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, NATO’s 28 members have evolved into a sort of global police organization. NATO forces were major players in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example. For that reason, the NATO summit could still draw lots of protestors.

“At that point, you can start to see why people might protest against it, since it sort of represents the heavy hand of the military dominance of these countries over the rest of the world,” Hurd said.

NATO’s headquarters are in Brussels, and Chicago’s leaders will travel there in a few weeks for a state dinner, to continue to market the city to the thousands expected to travel here for the summit.

“The meeting is incredibly important, but the benefit we get (is) long, long benefits to the city after they have come and gone,” Welsh said.

What is special about the summit is the leaders of NATO countries and their entourages will be in Chicago together, rather than simply the ambassadors stationed in Brussels.

Even without the G8 summit on the weekend of May 18-21, Chicagoans should still expect street closures and heightened security in and near downtown, and still expect an international platform to showcase the city.

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