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Obama in Copenhagen to bolster Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid


Official Chicago 2016 Olympic bid logo, owned and provided by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). (Chicago2016.org)

CBS Politics Today reports that U.S. President Barack Obama has gone to Copenhagen to support his hometown, Chicago, in its quest to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is due to make its decision by vote on October 2, 2009. Chicago's competitors are Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, and Tokyo, though sources close to the process say Chicago and Rio are the front-runners.

Chicago's "Obama factor"

Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey went ahead to lobby the IOC members and encourage them to choose Chicago as the city prepares for its final presentation before the IOC vote.

Obama hopes to use his international charisma to make stronger Chicago's case, and the competitor countries' heads of state and governments have scrambled to follow suit. Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said that of all the things the IOC will take into consideration as it votes, "sport is the most important one."

Republicans criticize Obama's trip

Republican lawmakers have criticized Obama's decision to fly to Copenhagen to pitch a sporting event as major national debate continues on issues including Afghanistan and health care reform.

"It's a great idea to promote Chicago," House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio said, "but he's the president of the United States, not mayor of Chicago."

The White House has responded by insisting that the President and the First Lady are supporting and representing the United States' national bid, not just that of the city of Chicago. As the U.S. Senate will not vote on the health care reform package this week anyway, they say, Obama is not putting national issues on the back-burner.

Not the first U.S. Olympics, but the first President to directly promote

While pitching Chicago for 2016, the United States has hosted the Olympics eight times, four times each for the Summer and Winter Games:

  • 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri
  • 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York
  • 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California
  • 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California
  • 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York
  • 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, California
  • 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia
  • 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah

Chicago beat out Los Angeles for the American bid; other cities that were in the running earlier were Houston, Texas, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and San Francisco, California..

Obama is the first president to make such a direct pitch to secure a U.S. city as Olympic host, according to CNN. At stake may be the world standings of both the city of Chicago and Obama himself as the success or failure of his personal appeal to the IOC may affect his prestige at home and abroad.

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