POSTED: October 2nd 2009

Chicago and Obama offer to make the IOC proud

Chicago supporters: Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama / lake images
Chicago supporters: Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama / lake images

KEIR RADNEDGE in COPENHAGEN / Sports Features Communications

OCT 02: Chicago led off the final 2016 bid presentations to the IOC not because of alphabetical order but through the original drawing of lots to establish administrative sequence with Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid.

The luck of that draw meant that President Barack Obama, climaxing the Chicago ‘show’, set an intimidating promotional standard for the other three cities.

Chicago’s proposal was perceived as competent and confident, if a little lightweight. But finally it depended on the star quality of Obama and wife Michelle. Whether that would prove enough when the IOC members came to vote was something else entirely.

The bid was introduced by IOC member Anita DeFrantz who was followed by United States Olympic Committee Larry Probst.

Just in case events over the past year – revenue rows, TV channel controversies – had sent out the wrong messages, he offered “a renewed foundation of friendship and trust . . . in which the USOC serves the Olympic movement as a vital and trusted partner.”

Safe shopping

Bid leader Patrick Ryan appealed beyond the IOC members themselves with a note that the shopping, a “safe walk from your hotels” rivalled the retail therapy available in London, Paris and New York. He was followed, among others, by Olympic decathlon champion Bryan Clay and Paralympian Linda Mastandrea and USOC vice-president Bob Ctvrtlik.

Then Michelle Obama offered a personal and sentimental appeal based on the lifestyle lessons she learned through sport as a girl “growing up in a modest home.”

She told of the inspiration of her father who taught her the values of active sport despite suffering from multiple sclerosis. Mrs Obama recalled sitting on his lap, watching the Olympics and being inspired by the examples of Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci.

She added: “I am asking you to choose Chicago, to choose America, not as First Lady of the United States, not just as a Chicagoan, not just as mother but as a daughter.”

Presidential seal

Then she introduced her husband who put his own stamp of approval on the Chicago bid, saying: “I come here today as a passionate supporter of the Olympic and Paralympic Games - as a strong believer in the movement they represent and as a proud Chicagoan but, above all, as a faithful representative of the American people.

“We look forward to welcoming the world to the shores of Lake Michigan in 2016. To host athletes and visitors from every corner of the globe is a high honour and America is ready once again to assume that sacred trust. This is a nation which has always opened its arms to citizens of world, including my own father from the African continent."

Acknowledging the role of Congress, he said: “I know you face a difficult choice from among several great cities and nations. I urge you to choose Chicago for the same reason I did 25 years ago, for the reason I feel in love with the city I still call home.

“Growing up I moved around a lot and then I came to Chicago and worked alongside men and women of every colour and race and religion. Chicago is that most American of American cities - where citizens of more than 130 nations inhabit a rich tapestry of distinctive neighbourhoods.

"Chicago is a place where we strive to celebrate what makes us different just as we celebrate what we have in common. We know how to put on big events and visitors will tell you we do it well. The practical and the inspirational exist in harmony. This is a bustling metropolis with the warmth of a small town.”

Historical challenge

Then, addressing wider issues, President Obama continued: “We stand at a moment in history when the fate of each nation is linked to the fate of all nations, a time of common challenges which require common effort. The United States has a responsibility to help in that effort and forge new partnerships with the nations and peoples of the world.

“No-one expects the Olympic Games to solve all our collective challenges but what we do believe is that, in a world where we have all too often witnessed the darker aspects of our humanity, peaceful sporting competition represents what is best about our humanity – if only for a few weeks – and helps us understand each other a little bit better.”

He drew on the lessons of the unifying effect of his own Presidential accession, saying: “Our diversity can be a source of strength, a cause for celebration and with sustained work and determination we can live and prosper together. That work is far from over but it has begun in earnest.

"We don’t know what the next few years will bring but I would like nothing more than to welcome the world back into our neighbourhood.

“The nation that has been shaped by people from around the world wants the chance to inspire it once more – to offer a stage worthy of the extraordinary talent and dynamism of all nations.”

Finally, he concluded with this appeal: “I urge you to choose Chicago, to choose America . . . and, if you do, if we walk this path together, I promise you the city of Chicago and the United States of America will make the world proud.”

Keywords · 2016 Olympic Games · Copenhagen · Michelle Obama · President Obama · Ryan · Probst · Clay

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