Chicago says "No Games!"
No Games Chicago Update
19 Days To Decision
Daily News

September 12, 2009
The People Speak

I just wanted to basically say that in my opinion Chicago should not get the Olympics.  We supposedly have so many budget deficits.   How are we going to be able to afford this.  It's ridiculous.  And Mayor Daley do need to get his priorities in check because the crime rate...get that in order first.  You know what I mean.  We have so many other things to take care of.  And he's so worried about the Olympics.   Give it to somebody else 'cause they deserve it.  We don't, we don't need it.

Latisha, Chicago
Call in comment to the "Gerrard McClendon Live" television show, September 2, 2009

email logo

Open letter
to the IOC
"Why you don't want to give the Olympics to Chicago"

Join Our Mailing List
2016 bid torch passed to Michelle Obama

First lady -- not president -- to fly to Copenhagen to help make final pitch for Chicago to land Games

Katherine Skiba, Kathy Bergen and Philip Hersh -
Chicago Tribune reporters - September 12, 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama will lead a delegation to Copenhagen next month for the vote on whether Chicago beats three rivals to win the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

But the White House announcement Friday trumpeting the first lady's high-profile mission did little to extinguish a question that burns as brightly as the Olympic torch: Will the popular first lady ultimately let her husband take the lead in the hour long presentation before the International Olympic Committee's vote on Oct. 2?

On Friday afternoon, amid heavy speculation over whether the president would travel to Copenhagen to try to seal a deal, White House officials revealed that Mrs. Obama would serve as an ambassador for Chicago 2016 when it states its case for the bid over Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro.

In announcing Mrs. Obama's loftiest assignment yet, White House officials said President Barack Obama on Friday informed the president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, that the effort to pass health-care reform "keeps him from committing at this time to travel to Copenhagen on Oct. 2."

"At this time" was the operative phrase that seemed to leave open the prospect of a last-minute surprise trip by the president.

Mrs. Obama will be accompanied by Valerie Jarrett, a White House senior adviser, longtime friend and big backer of bringing the Games to Chicago. A group of athletes and celebrities is expected to join them.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Chicago would offer the world a fantastic setting for these historic games," Mrs. Obama said in a statement, "and I hope that the Olympic torch will have the chance to burn brightly in my hometown."

Mayor Richard Daley said he was "thrilled" that the first lady was going.

"As a lifelong resident of our city, Michelle's passion for Chicago is contagious," he said in a statement, adding, "This is not just Chicago's bid, it is America's bid."

At a news conference in Chicago, Patrick Ryan, CEO of Chicago 2016, applauded the choice and termed Chicago's bid historic, citing "total cohesion" in support "from City Hall to the state capitol to the White House." Still, reporters asked: Is the door closed to a presidential trip?

Ryan said the White House statement spoke for itself, adding: "I think Michelle Obama will represent our country, our city and our bid tremendously. ... This vote is not going to be decided based on how many political leaders are going to be there."

One observer said the announcement that Mrs. Obama would take the lead convinced him that the president would indeed show up at the 11th hour, creating a bigger splash.

"This is a great strategy to generate much more interest and to have a much greater entrance," said sports industry expert Marc Ganis, president of SportsCorp Ltd. "His wife can go and represent him. It's someone senior from the White House and someone who's much better than Valerie Jarrett, who's a lovely lady but does not have the gravitas of the president or Michelle.

"And watch, Barack will show up almost unannounced, for a couple hours," Ganis said. "He'll give his commitment, look IOC members in the eye and say, 'I want your vote.' The same day he'll be back on Air Force One and back in Washington. This is a wonderful David Axelrod moment."

Axelrod, a top White House adviser from Chicago, spearheaded President Obama's campaign.

The first lady, whose approval ratings approach or exceed 70 percent, is sure to add substance and sizzle by virtue of two Ivy League degrees, a spot on Vanity Fair's International Best Dressed List and her advocacy of a host of pet issues including support for military families, healthy eating and education.

High-profile lobbyists have held sway in the past. Britain's Tony Blair and Russia's Vladimir Putin helped persuade IOC members before their countries won Olympic Games set for 2012 and 2014.

This time, a large cast of VIPs -- including King Juan Carlos of Spain, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and possibly the Japanese royal family -- will go to Copenhagen to push for their countries.

Next Wednesday, the Obamas will welcome Olympic and Paralympic athletes to the White House to advance Chicago's bid, and questions about whether the president will appear in Copenhagen are bound to persist.

Olympics historian Kevin Wamsley of the University of Western Ontario said the first lady's presence is unlikely to carry as much weight as the president's could. "He does have a presence, and it's a little more overwhelming than other international leaders," Wamsley said. "My guess is that a lot of minds may be made up, but there may be little bit of a swing vote."

One person who didn't think that the president's presence would matter was IOC member Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden, an Olympic champion alpine skier in the 1990s.

"I think the people from Chicago will be able to do a very good job with or without President Barack Obama," she said in an e-mail. "If he comes I would love to say hello, but I am sure it will not make me vote in one way or the other!"