President Barack Obama Lobbies IOC for Chicago's 2016 Olympic Bid

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

President Barack Obama might not show up in Copenhagen next week to lobby personally for Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Games, but he seems determined to win over members of the International Olympic Committee from a distance.

Obama sent letters touting Chicago's virtues to the 100-plus members of the IOC, which will select the 2016 host Oct. 2 from among Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Madrid.

"The City of Chicago is designed to host global celebrations and it will deliver a spectacular Olympic experience for one and all," Obama said in the letter, which was dated Sept. 10.

Obama has stepped up his public support of the city's bid since a near-furor erupted in Chicago over news that he likely would not attend the selection and would send first lady Michelle Obama in his stead.

Days later, Obama telephoned IOC President Jacques Rogge to explain personally that he might be unable to attend because of efforts to push through reform in America's health-care system.

The letter, however, did not close the door on a possible appearance by Obama. It was sent a day after it came to light during a White House news conference that the Copenhagen event was not on Obama's calendar.

"You can count on our government to support Chicago's quest to host an unforgettable event and strengthen the Olympic movement," Obama said. "I believe we have an historic opportunity to do great things together, and I look forward to discussing that opportunity with you, if not in Copenhagen, then soon thereafter if Chicago is your choice."

The IOC has deemed an appearance by Obama critical to the bid's success as Rio de Janeiro tries to win the first Olympics for South America. President Luiz In?cio Lula da Silva of Brazil and King Juan Carlos of Spain have said they will be in Copenhagen; the Japanese government has said it hopes Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama also will attend.

The IOC selects the host city in rounds of secret ballots, with the least-popular city in each round getting eliminated. The selection historically has been filled with politics. London won the 2012 Summer Games four years ago, upsetting the heavily favored Paris, after Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived and seemed to charm the ranks of the IOC.

Chicago 2016 officials have been trying to persuade Obama to go without appearing to stake too much importance to his presence. Obama has already made four videos in support of the bid, and last week welcomed a group of Olympians to the White House.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company