Sunday, September 13, 2009

The FLOTUS Is Headed To Copenhagen

There are two weeks to go until the big International Olympic Committee meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark on October 2 that will decide which of the final four contenders gets the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

The final four cities still in the running in this extremely tight race to secure the 2016 Games are Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro.

The trend over the last two IOC Olympic decision meetings is for the current national head of state to personally lobby the IOC decision makers to swing the votes for their candidate city.

Then British Prime Minister Tony Blair traveled to Singapore in 2005 to help London land the 2012 Games. Then Russian President Vladimir Putin flew to Guatemala City in 2007 to push Sochi's winning bid for the 2014 Winter Games.

The Chicago 2016 bid committee hoped to have President Obama's help in Copenhagen in light of the fact that Brazil's president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has already said he'll be there, as will King Juan Carlos of Spain and Japan's group inviting incoming Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Crown Prince Naruhito to attend.

President Obama not only enthusiastically supports the Chicago group's attempt to bring the Summer Olympics back to the United States for the first time since 1996, he has taped four messages in support of the bid. He will probably do another as part of the city's final presentation.

In a message to African Olympic leaders, President Obama stated in a video, "From the beginning I have fully supported Chicago's dream of hosting the 2016 games. "If Chicago is selected for this honor we will ensure that the Olympics and Paralympic Games are a key priority for our nation...."

"You can count on our government to work as a committed partner in Chicago's quest to host a great and historic games and strengthen the Olympic movement worldwide."

But with health care reform at a critical juncture, President Obama personally called IOC President Jacques Rogge and let him know he couldn't be there.

Rogge said in a recent statement that Chicago's chances shouldn't hinge on whether Obama makes a personal appearance in Denmark.

"If they want to come, this is an honor for the IOC," Rogge said. "We'll feel honored by their presence. It would be absolutely legitimate if they go to defend the bid of their country. We are not asking for heads of state to come there.

Fear not Americans, an Obama will be in Copenhagen to charm the world and push our Olympic bid to a hopefully successful conclusion.

The First Lady will travel to Denmark along with White House adviser and former vice chair of Chicago 2016 Valerie Jarrett in advance of the critical October 2 meeting.

"It is with great pride that I will go to Copenhagen to make the case for the United States to host the 2016 Olympics." the First Lady said in a statement. "There is no doubt in my mind that Chicago would offer the world a fantastic setting for these historic games and I hope that the Olympic torch will have the chance to burn brightly in my hometown."

She's probably a better choice. She brings some international star power of her own into this event in addition to being a lifelong Chicago resident.

The proposed Olympic stadium should Chicago's bid be successful will be built on the South Side where she was born and grew up.

"I think she will represent our country extremely well as first lady, she'll represent her husband, her life partner, extremely well, and she'll represent our bid extremely well," Ryan said. "I think it's a great opportunity for us."

Mayor Richard M. Daley agreed. "Michelle's passion for Chicago is contagious," Daley said. "She will be able to share her unique perspective as to why Chicago and its residents are poised to further the Olympic movement across our country and around the world."

Ryan stated that in his travels around the world, IOC members have told him how "very, very impressed" they are with Mrs. Obama and said they hoped she'd come to Copenhagen.

Well, they're getting their wish.

Here's hoping it results in the Olympic torch relay ending with the Olympic flame being lit in a stadium on the shores of Lake Michigan in the summer of 2016.

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