Obama's Copenhagen visit hoped to boost Chicago bid

US President Barack Obama made a flying visit to Copenhagen on Friday to promote Chicago's bid as the International Olympic Committee prepares to announce which city will host the 2016 Olympic Games on Friday.


AFP - Chicago hosting the 2016 Olympic Games would allow America to restore its tainted image as a diverse and welcoming society, President Barack Obama said Friday.


That image had been lost in recent years, Obama told the 100-plus International Olympic Committee (IOC) members who were to vote to decide whether Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro or Tokyo will host the 2016 Games.

Though the President didn't mention during George W. Bush by name, it was clear he saw the Games as a vital strand of his strategy in rebuilding bridges with the rest of the world which under his predecessor had seen the US's relations abroad take a hammering.

"One of the most important legacies I would like to see Chicago leave in hosting the 2016 Games would be to show America at its best," said the president, who flew in on Air Force One early Friday.

"That the USA is open to the world and to that end I have directed the full force of the White House and the State Department behind it. I want people to come away with the impression that America is an open and diverse society.

"Over the past few years the fundamental truth of the United States has been lost.

"The Olympic Games could restore it."

Obama, a resident of the city for nearly 25 years, said that the two weeks of the Games allowed people to see a better side of humanity.

"What each and everyone of you (IOC members) believe is that in a world where too often we witnessed darker aspects of our humanity, peaceful competition represents the best aspects of our humanity, which for a few weeks helps us understand each other a bit better," he said.

Michelle Obama had used her father as her inspiration for bringing the Games to her hometown.

"Even when he was increasingly suffering from multiple sclerosis he would struggle on his crutches and play with us and he taught me a mean right hook," said the First Lady, who was born and raised in the  South Side of the city.

"I am not just asking you to give us the Games as a Chicagoan or as an American but also as a daughter. My father would have been so proud to see us here bidding for the Games and to dream that the Olympic and Paralympic flame would shine on Chicago."

Chicago's longerving Mayor Richard M Daley, who crucially persuaded all 49 city councillors to agree to underwrite any overruns of the costs of the Games, had already highlighted how Jesse Owens and a team-mate had inspired the bid.

"He was one of two African American sprinters who came from Chicago for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin," said the 67-year-old, who has been in power since 1989.

"They weren't at the time given the basic rights by their own country, but they went to represent their country because of the Olympic spirit.

"Their performances in Berlin offered a beacon of hope and justice not for just the United States but the whole world. It has also proved an inspiration for Chicago to bid for the Olympics."

Bid chairman Pat Ryan, who took on the onerous task because of his longstanding friendship with Daley, said that one of their legacies would be to draw young people into the Olympic Movement.

"This legacy will take deep roots and we will focus exclusively in the next seven years at being your trusted partners," said the 70-year-old.

Ryan said there were three excellent reasons for coming to Chicago.

"It is clean, safe and beautiful."

The presentation had been opened by veteran IOC member and former Olympic rower Anita de Frantz who said that it offered an historic opportunity and that Chicago loved to have fun. "It is," she said quoting the IOC Evaluation  Commission's report "an Olympic playground."

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