Chicago Shines During NATO Summit

For every destination, a meeting is a test given by meeting planners, attendees and press to determine: Can it cut the mustard, and is it up to the future challenge of bigger, better events? That was certainly the case this weekend with one of the year's most important meetings: the North American Treaty Organization's (NATO) 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago.

The gathering attracted thousands of journalists, delegates and staff to the host city — which passed the "test" with flying colors, according to local media reports.

The roughly 24-hour summit took place May 20-21 at Chicago's McCormick Place Convention Center, marking the first time a NATO Summit had taken place in an American city other than Washington, D.C. And while time in the Windy City was short, meeting organizers made sure attendees and reporters were able to experience as much of Chicago as possible by shipping local food into the convention center along with guest speakers and video tours featuring the city's best attributes and top attractions. The host committee even created a special website, ChicagoStories.org, that includes sources and background information on everything from Chicago politics to ethnic neighborhoods.

The goal of the videos and the food, which ranged from deep dish pizza to Vienna Beef hot dogs: Impress journalists so they'll write about Chicago, and delegates so they'll return to it.

"We're bringing Chicago to [journalists], knowing that they may not have the opportunity to leave the McCormick Place media center," Jennifer Martinez, Chicago NATO host committee spokeswoman, told the Chicago Tribune.

Despite a weekend that was mired in protests and street closures, the city succeeded in its public relations efforts, according to the Tribune, today's edition of which included the headline, "Foreign journalists favorably impressed."

"I saw this gleaming city on the lake that was full of amazing architecture — I would even say better than New York City — and that was really impressive to me," one journalist, from the French news agency AFP, told the paper. "For the show that they're putting on for NATO, Chicago officials have done themselves well."

President Barack Obama's hometown impressed not only the journalists who covered the NATO Summit, but also the world leaders who participated in it.

"Chicago is the perfect place for this NATO summit — Chicago brings many cultures together," NATO Secretary-General Anders Rasmussen said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "It is diverse and dynamic, so Chicago is the perfect place to renew the bonds between Europe and North America."

According to a study by Deloitte, The Economic Impact of the NATO Summit on the City of Chicago, the NATO Summit was expected to attract 21,200 people to Chicago, including 7,500 delegates; 5,000 foreign ministers, support staff, security details and spouses; 2,300 members of the media; and 6,400 other staff and attendees. That translates into 49,300 hotel stays and 2,200 temporary jobs, according to the host committee, which said most delegates would stay four nights, although some would stay for as many as 15.

All told, Deloitte said the summit was expected to generate approximately $128.2 million in economic impact for Chicago.