CHICAGO (CBS) — For the city of Chicago and its people, what is at stake is image.
And for Mayor Emanuel, who volunteered us for the NATO summit, it’s about the city’s future.
At the first official event Friday evening, Mayor Emanuel kept a low profile. Dignitaries gathered to view a photo exhibit, “NATO Delivers,” highlighting past missions of the organization founded after World War II to protect Western Europe from the soviets.
NATO’s deputy secretary general, Ambassador Kolinda Grabar, set the stage for the weekend summit.
Also Friday, a handful of foreign leaders were arriving, including the man of the hour, Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, which will be the prime focus of this weekend’s summit.
The goal of President Obama, who welcomed G8 leaders to Camp David Friday, before flying to Chicago Saturday, is to rebuild support for waiting until 2014 to withdraw — not sooner.
France’s new president was telling president Obama, no way, he wants out sooner.
This is not completely about the 62 heads of state, who started arriving Friday afternoon and will continue to stream in through Saturday night.
For the city, it’s as much about the more than 2,000 reporters from those 62 nations who’ll fill the seats in the sprawling press center set up in one of McCormick Place’s cavernous exhibition halls.
They’ll be provided comfortable places to work, and free food nearby from Chicago’s celebrity chefs. Right next to the food, monitors are set up, where a nine-minute video plays selling the city, its people and attractions.
“When everybody leaves here who had a vision of Al Capone in their mind, they come back and it’s with a fabulous gleaming city on the lake,” Lori Healey, head of the host committee, told reporters Friday.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports
Mayor Emanuel is hoping the positive images, transmitted overseas, will boost Chicago’s profile and popularity as a tourist destination.
While the mayor’s only public event Friday was with aspiring young chefs and their summit food creations, he also met behind closed doors with the president of Latvia. There will undoubtedly be other private meetings with world leaders.