Oprah attends IOC dinner

April 7, 2009 9:27:24 AM PDT
Oprah Winfrey attended an exclusive dinner on Monday night with members of International Olympic committee. Video Highlights:
  • Oprah attends City Night
  • White House liaison to help Chicago 2016 bid
  • Michael Jordan's video message to the IOC
  • They say no one thing seals the deal of an Olympic host city. It's a lot of little things like trust, relationships, setting and substance.

    Chicago adds one more to the list on Monday night: celebrity endorsement.

    The cheers of children have Olympic Committee members feeling like royalty as they enter the Art Institute.

    Around back, the 'queen' of daytime talk arrives with a message.

    "What I'm hoping is to all have a real honest conversation about what a great city this is," said talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

    Oprah is just one of 120 guests. Some are Olympians, others politicians. All are VIPs, intent on making the IOC comfortable with choosing Chicago.

    "You got a President who would love to see the Olympics in his backyard. It would be a lot of fun," said Arne Duncan, US Education Secretary.

    "I think it's a great opportunity for us and for the United States," said Dennis Hastert, former US House speaker.

    As Chicago's team prepares for the final day of presentations they say they are confident but not cocky about the job they've done.

    "It's not just good for Chicago, it's good for our country," said Valerie Jarrett, White House Senior Advisor.

    President Obama sent in some high level help. Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett told the evaluation commission Washington will pick up most of the security tab. Infrastructure projects will be fast-tracked. And visas won't be a problem.

    "What we're going to do for the first time ever is have a White House office that's dedicated to the Olympics. I'll be responsible for that office," said Jarrett.

    Back at the Art Institute, there were predictions that Chicago will be the 'second city' no more.

    "I think that's been good for those of us who live here. But that will all change in 2016 when the world sees how great we are," said Oprah.

    Tuesday's the last day of the IOC visit. It's also the first time we'll hear from evaluation commission members. They'll share some thoughts on what they've seen but will by no means offer an endorsement of Chicago's plan. After all, they still have three more cities to visit.

    Protests greet guests

    More than a dozen protestors greeted guests at Monday's dinner with a very vocal welcome.

    Chicago police kept the demonstrators across the street from the entrance of the Art Institute. Many complain the Olympics will hurt Chicago's economy, not help it. Others say hosting the games will have a negative impact on the city's environment.

    White House backs Chicago 2016

    President Barack Obama is promising the full force of the White House to back Chicago's Olympic bid.

    White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett tells ABC 7 News that she informed International Olympic Committee members Monday morning that President Obama has asked her to become the White House Olympic liaison should Chicago be selected as the 2016 host city. A US Olympic Committee spokesman says Jarrett would be the highest level administration official ever to be named point person for the Games.

    Jarrett was one of the founding board members of Chicago 2016. Now she's telling IOC members they will get unprecedented level of cooperation from the White House. Concerns over immigration hassles, security funding and other federal help will all "personally" be handled by her.

    "I'll oversee it, make sure we coordinate all the various departments from Homeland Security to the State Department to Department of Transportation. All the different departments we need coordinated at the federal to make sure we have a magnificent Games."

    Some members of the Olympic movement have complained about inhospitable immigration policies that might complicate an Olympics held in the United States. Jarrett said the position shows the U.S. government's backing of the bid will be consistent and complete.

    Organized labor is also of interest to the IOC. One evaluation commission member asked if Chicago could promise there would be "no" strikes similar to massive ones that periodically shut down France?

    Chicago Federation of Labor President Dennis Gannon said his unions will put their money where their mouth is: Investing pension funds in the construction of the proposed Olympic Village.

    "I think that went over real big with folks from France and real big with the committee. We're going to put some skin in the Game," said Dennis Gannon, Chicago Federation of Labor.

    Also on Monday, Chicago 2016 went over plans to make the 2016 Games the most environmentally-friendly Olympics ever.

    Chicago 2016 hosts City Night, cultural event

    Bid cities are only allowed to host one so-called 'cultural event.' That will be held Monday night at the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Oprah Winfrey, who last summer showcased Chicago by broadcasting an Olympic-themed show from Millennium Park, will attend City Night. She will join Mayor Daley, Koko Taylor, and Buddy Guy to wine dine International Olympic Committee members at the Art Institute.

    "This is THE city so I'm hoping other people will see that and the Olympic Committee will take note," said Oprah Winfrey in September 2008.

    The IOC will be in town until April 8. Over the weekend, the team toured proposed venues for the games, including Soldier Field and Washington Park.


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