POSTED: April 3rd 2009

Oprah to lead the fightback

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT / Sports Features Communications

CHICAGO: The reality of Oprah Winfrey and the virtuality of President Barack Obama and basketball superstar Michael Jordan will be needed more than ever by Chicago to gloss over an unhappy start to the IOC visit.

The evaluation commission flew in on Thursday to launch its four-city inspection trips around the Windy City and Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo, its bidding rivals in the race for the 2016 Olympics.

The one formal permitted dinner of the visit is being staged at the Art Institute where talk show host Winfrey will make a welcoming appearance and President Obama and Michael Jordan will deliver videotaped presentations.

Patrick Sandusky, public relations director for Chicago 2016, said: “Oprah is a supporter of the Olympic movement and is one of the most iconic Chicagoans. It made sense to have her at the dinner that celebrates both the Olympic movement and the city of Chicago."

Winfrey may need all her celebrity charisma to rebalance the city’s image after a pay rise protest against Mayor Richard Daley by around 3,000 police officers, a noisy anti-Games community demonstration (“We don't want Games, we want houses, we want schools, we want clinics"), the defacing of an Olympic mural and the release of the indictment against ousted Illinois governor Rod R Blagojevich.

Federal prosecutors claim Blagojevich used the opportunity to fill the Senate seat vacated by Obama as another element in a racketeering scheme. Blagojevich has been charged with 16 felonies, including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and making false statements to federal agents.

In the circumstances it may be hardly surprising that Chicago has been accused of a lack of promotional passion.

Michael Roberts, vice-chairman of Chicago 2016, responded by saying: "We're being humble. We're being discreet. Our passion is, we will deliver. You can trust us. We're reliable. We'll surprise you. We will exceed your expectations.”

Keywords · IOC · 2016 · Olympic Games · International Olympic Committee · evaluation commission · Chicago

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