Updated 05/17/12 – 4:36 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — The pulse of Chicago is quickening with the latest NATO developments, as downtown hotels have started welcoming their first NATO guests.
CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports hotels playing host to NATO dignitaries are preparing for 10 delegations expected to arrive in Chicago on Thursday.
By the end of the week, thousands of NATO summit participants will be in Chicago.
The flags are flying on the Magnificent Mile, including several boasting the NATO emblem.
Chicago is the first city in the U.S. – other than Washington, D.C. – to host a NATO summit. It’s a pretty big deal, and many tourists are glad it’s here.
“I think it’s good for Chicago, and the surrounding areas, and it’ll be kind of neat to see,” said Thomas Steir of Des Moines.
“It’s a very welcoming town. We’ve been very welcomed by people. It’s easy to walk, it’s easy to get around. People have been great here. It’s beautiful,” said Kim Brophy, of Boston.
At the Hyatt Regency Chicago on Wacker Drive, Amisha Patel was getting ready Thursday morning to meet with journalists who have arrived for the summit.
“I think it’s starting to build, that folks are starting to come into town,” Patel said. “We’ve got Reuters, we’ve got BBC.”
Patel is part of a community labor coalition in Chicago that is offering national and foreign journalists an inside look at Chicago.
“We’re doing a tour for journalists, who are in town for NATO, to get a chance to actually leave the downtown area, get a sense of what’s happening in neighborhoods across the city.”
The InterContinental Chicago hotel on Michigan Avenue is one of several accommodating NATO guests.
General Manager Raymond Vermolan said, “We want to make sure that our guests get informed on where to go, and where they can expect traffic maybe some traffic delays – and of course keeping them informed is really important – and then bringing in extra culinary staff, from other locations, to make sure that we cater to the visitors.”
CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole reports, in the kitchens at the InterContinental, some extra items from foreign lands are on the menu, and the Michael Jordan Steak House at the hotel is serving up entrees with added flair.
Chef Craig Couper said he can feel the pressure is on.
“The streets are abuzz, and everybody in the hotel is really bringing their ‘A’ game,” he said.
Hotel staff wouldn’t say which delegations are checking in, but they’re prepared for dozens of dignitaries from at least three NATO countries.
Hotel spokesman Dan Egan said, “We’re very excited to have NATO in the city, and it really is our showtime.”
Daily gift baskets for all NATO guests include local favorites like Garrett’s popcorn or Frango mints, as well as a few delicacies from their homelands.
“Our goal was to incorporate a little bit of their country, but a lot of Chicago,” Egan said.
From the bellmen in the lobby, to the maids upstairs, all hotel staffers have been told to be especially attentive this week to clients’ needs.
“If a housekeeper is cleaning a room and they hear a different language, they’ll actually go out and get that newspaper from that country, and place it in the guest room,” Egan said.
A new translation system even allows staff to connect immediately with someone who can address a foreign-speaking guest’s concerns should a problem arrise.
“We’re one of the few hotels that has a wireless technology – badges that our staff have, that they can instantly get translations for our guests, which is special,” Vermolan said.
Concierge Victor Colon said he doesn’t feel any pressure with all the international guests staying at the hotel.
“No, it’s a great time to showcase, to show exactly what Chicago is made of,” Colon said.
The InterContinental has also increased its cable television offerings, to include news and sporting events from NATO countries, and help their guests stay connected with what’s happening back home.
O’Hare International Airport also will be a busy place Thursday and throughout the weekend, as more NATO participants arrive. The NATO host committee said hundreds of Chicagoans have volunteered to welcome the visitors to the city.