Oprah Winfrey hosts Olympians in Chicago

September 4, 2008 9:54:49 AM PDT
Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympics got a big boost Wednesday from the queen of talk and more than 100 U.S. Olympians. Oprah Winfrey taped the season premiere for "The Oprah Winfrey Show" at Millennium Park, and she invited 150 U.S. Olympic athletes to join her. The athletes were introduced under a shower of red, white and blue confetti.

Over her 23 years on the air in Chicago, Oprah has used her star power to sell everything from books to Buicks. Wednesday, it's all about helping the Olympics, celebrating athletes, and in the process giving a big boost to her adopted hometown.

Some of the best athletes in the world gathered at Millennium Park. They took part in a live taping of the season premiere of the Oprah Winfrey Show. Chicago is one of four cities vying for to host the 2016 Games.

There's something athletes refer to as post-Olympic depression. Often, they go from seeing their dreams come true or fade fast only to return home and say "Now what?" Well, thanks to Chicago's own Olympic dream and one of its most famous residents, members of Team USA are still feeling on top of the world.

Olympians on parade. From famous NBA players, to members of the U.S. men's water polo team, Oprah and her hometown are making them feel like heroes.

Being an Olympian or being on Oprah, which is cooler?

"I don't know this is like my second gold medal just being here with Oprah to tell you the truth! I feel like I won two gold medals, one in the Olympics and one being with Oprah," said Dwight Howard, U.S. men's basketball center, Orlando Magic.

Chicago's top talker turned her show into a party at Millennium Park -- honoring the athletes and giving the city's Olympic bid an Oprah-sized endorsement.

"What I'm hoping is that the spirit and energy of what these athletes bring when they all come together, all of their, you know, discipline and triumph and the victory, that the energy of that will come across that screen and the Olympic committee will say 'What were we thinking? Chicago, that's the only city,' " said Winfrey.

The athletes are still riding a tidal wave of Olympic energy. Their Beijing bling is proudly on display and so is their excitement for the possibility of competing in an American city in 2016.

How about postponing retirement Misty May-Treanor and Carrie Walsh?

"If Chicago gets it, it would definitely be worth it. We'll be about 40 at that time. Who wants to see 40-year-olds in bikinis?" said Walsh.

"2016 is a long way away, but never say never," said Jenny Finch, U.S. women's softball, Naperville.

Eight-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was wearing his support for Chicago's bid right on his shirt. But who are we kidding? He's in Chicago for one reason:

"My mom always wanted me to do and being -- being here in Chicago and being able to be here with Oprah, for Oprah, and also being in a city where possibly the 2016 Olympics could be, it's great to be back in the U.S., that's for sure," Phelps said.

Phelps was scheduled to take part in a swim clinic at a public pool on the city's Near West Side Wednesday evening, and then, beginning at 5 p.m., he's going to trade the water for the web. Phelps is taking part in an online web chat. That Web site is: www.chicago2016channel.com

Oprah's season premiere airs next Monday, September 8, at 9 a.m. on ABC 7.


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