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CHICAGO (CBS) – The NATO summit scheduled for Chicago is now just two months away. On Tuesday, a Chicago delegation headed to NATO headquarters in Belgium to discuss plans for the summit.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine has a preview of what NATO officials can expect when they get to Chicago in May.
Lonnie Brooks has been singing the blues in Chicago for more than 50 years. The 78-year-old blues icon was asked to headline Chicago’s international coming out party in Brussels.
He didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation to go to NATO headquarters.
The big surprise is the Chicago delegation will not be led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. He’s on spring break with his kids. Instead, his wife first lady Amy Rule is leading the delegation, in her first featured role at a major public event.
Rule has preferred to stay in the background since Emanuel became mayor. She has never done an interview or addressed a public audience, until being tapped to head the group whose goal is to jump start a major effort to boost Chicago’s image.
Delegation member Michelle Boone said the mayor has a goal for Chicago: “50 million visitors by 2020. And, certainly, the biggest area of growth will be with our international visitors.”
Chicago currently ranks 10th among U.S. cities in international visitors, far behind New York City’s 8.5 million a year, or 32% of the nation’s international visitors. Chicago welcomed just 1.1 million, which is just 2% of those who visited from abroad.
Gov. Pat Quinn, who’s also a member of the delegation, said it all translates to jobs.
“There’s about 303,000 jobs in Illinois, as relates to tourism, conventions, hospitality. We want to be welcoming to the whole world,” Quinn said.
Guests in Brussels will be welcomed by a traveling taste of Chicago, featuring Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza, Manny’s corned beef, Eli’s cheesecake and Garrett’s popcorn.
However, some remain wary that threatened demonstrations could leave a bad taste in visitors’ mouths during the summit.
Asked if there’s a risk of the demonstrations tarnishing the city’s image, Quinn said, “I think we can handle anything. We believe in the First Amendment; the right to assemble, and to speak in a proper way, an orderly way, so no one else’s rights are impeded. And I think we can show the world that democracy is alive and well in Illinois.”
The goal in Brussels this week is to give NATO just a taste of the taste of Chicago. The hope is, despite the inevitable protests, when the world leaders and those who cover them come to Chicago in May, the real thing will be just as good.