President Barack Obama will go to Copenhagen this week to support Chicago's Olympic bid for the 2016 Summer Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) votes on the issue on October 2.
AFP - In a change of heart, US President Barack Obama will travel to Copenhagen this week to leverage his global popularity in a last-minute pitch for his hometown Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid, the White House said Monday.
The president will arrive in Denmark on Friday, hours before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) votes on the destiny of the Summer Games after a final round battle between Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro.
Obama had previously said that the pressure of his under-fire health care reform drive would keep him from attending the crucial meeting, and nominated his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama to go instead.
But his reversal sets up a high-profile clash on the Olympian political stage between the US president and leaders from Spain, Japan and Brazil also expected in Denmark to push their nations' respective bids.
The White House said Michelle Obama will go to Copenhagen separately Wednesday, with Obama's longtime Chicago friend Valerie Jarrett, who now serves as a senior advisor and head of the White House office of Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport.
Both Obamas will make a presentation on their hometown as part of the Windy City's final pitch.
"They will discuss why Chicago is best to host the 2016 Summer Games, and how the United States is eager to bring the world together to celebrate the ideals of the Olympic movement," the White House said in a statement.
Earlier this month, Obama, a keen sports fan and devotee of basketball and golf, delivered a strong, personal and highly visible endorsement to Chicago's Olympics crusade, declaring: "We want these games."
"Chicago is ready. The American people are ready. We want these Games," Obama said in an event at the White House dedicated to the Olympics, Paralympics and youth sport.
"We are fired up about this," Obama, a former US senator from Illinois and resident of Chicago, said on the south lawn of the White House.
King Juan Carlos of Spain, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama are also expected to travel to Copenhagen to lobby the 100 members of the IOC ahead of the vote.
High-powered lobbying by government leaders and royals was seen as a major factor in swaying the IOC as it selected recent Olympic hosts -- London for the 2012 Summer Games and Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Games.
London was awarded the 2012 Summer Games partly because former British prime minister Tony Blair went to Singapore to lobby.
Many existing venues and a compact geographical staging area are seen as the strengths of Chicago's bid, with Obama calling his home of nearly 25 years "a city of broad shoulders, big hearts and bold dreams."
Talk show star Oprah Winfrey has also agreed to lobby for Chicago and Chicago mayor Richard Daley was also to go to Denmark in the effort.
All the momentum a month ago appeared to be with vibrant Rio de Janeiro, which is in contention to become the first South American city to host the Olympics.
But the gritty midwestern US city has fought back in style, and Obama's political star power will give another priceless boost to the bid.
Many of the venues for the games would be within a few miles of Obama's home in the city's racially diverse Hyde Park neighborhood.
Should he win reelection in 2012, and Chicago emerges triumphant on Friday, Obama would be toward the end of his second term by the time the Games took place.
While in Denmark, the Obamas will meet Queen Margrethe and the president will also hold talks with Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen, the White House said.
House of Representatives Democrat Bobby Rush, who represents parts of Chicago, said last week that a direct lobbying role by the president would be critical in the city prevailing over the competition.
"You've got to be in-the-face, arms-around-the-shoulder. It's going to take that kind of lobbying to win this," he said.
"It's all about contact, communication and the ever-present ask."
Date created : 2009-09-28