Door left open for Obamas in Copenhagen

September 22, 2009 4:35:51 AM PDT
President Barack Obama wants to go to Copenhagen to help Chicago present its Olympic bid, according to a White House official.It was his idea to send a White House advance team to Denmark just in case he can make the trip. And Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is feeling more and more confident about Chicago's chances.

As ABC7 first reported Saturday night, President Obama has changed his mind. As recently as Monday afternoon, his Olympic point person told a reporter if he can be in Copenhagen to help Chicago, he will be. And perhaps that's one reason why Mayor Daley is now sounding like victory is at hand.

Olympic decorum typically dictates modesty when anyone from a candidate city is asked to size up the chances their city will win. Over the weekend, Daley ditched decorum to a degree.

"I'm very confident that we're going to get this because I believe we got the best proposal," said Daley.

On Monday, the mayor continued his calculated confidence, going so far as to handicap Chicago's competitors.

Tokyo, he says, will be hurt because Beijing just had the Games. The 2012 London Games, the mayor said, will hurt fellow European city Madrid's chances of hosting four years later.

As for Chicago's biggest competitor, Rio, Daley said that soccer-crazed nation will have its hands full hosting the World Cup in 2014.

"I'm getting more and more confident because they're getting the 2014 soccer. That's the biggest event, some believe it's bigger than the Olympics," said Daley.

Daley continues to say the White House has not told him anything new about whether President Obama will join the first lady and the Chicago bid team for the final International Olympic Committee sales job in Copenhagen.

On Monday, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett told Crain's Chicago Business the president personally ordered an advance team to Copenhagen this week to make security and other arrangements for a possible trip.

Crain's quotes Jarrett as saying "[The president] would love to be there, he [just] wants to make sure his absence won't be harmful" to ongoing negotiations over health care reform.

It's clear the White House is helping target potential swing IOC voters from Africa. Nearly a dozen are in play. Congressman Bobby Rush and Chicago's Olympic bid team hosted a Washington reception for ambassadors from many of those African nations last week. Rush says a personal presidential pitch could help win them over.

"Is that a requirement? I don't think it's an absolute requirement. It's a deep seated desire that he be there," said Rush, (D) Chicago.

The public may not get a firm answer on President Obama's Olympic travel plans until the end of this week or early next.


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