Going for the Gold: Obamas Ready to Bring Olympics to Chicago

Experts say the first couple faces stiff competition from Rio, Madrid and Tokyo.

ByABC News
September 29, 2009, 6:56 AM

Sept. 29, 2009 -- The Obamas are pulling out all the presidential stops to bring home the gold.

The competition to host the 2016 Summer Olympics is fierce, and the first couple is taking a lesson from world leaders who have succeeded in bringing the games to their respective countries.

And they're not leaving anything to chance. President Obama will travel 4,000 miles to Copenhagen, Denmark, and join the first lady Friday to charm and attempt to persuade members of the International Olympic Committee to hold the 2016 games in their hometown of Chicago. The "dynamic duo," as the White House calls them, will be joined by another celebrity -- TV mega-mogul Oprah Winfrey.

"This is extraordinary," ABC News consultant and USA Today sports columnist Christine Brenner said on "Good Morning America" today. "It's just rock stars showing up left and right, and I think the Obamas are doing the right thing. The president didn't have much of a choice. Being from Chicago, he had to do this."

The first family's home city is among four being considered to host the Olympics, along with Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. Michelle Obama, who leaves for Denmark today, said the gloves are off, and she likened the competition to the grueling final days of the campaign.

Insiders say the 106 members of the IOC, who will make their final decision Friday, like to be courted. With that in mind, British Prime Minister Tony Blair pulled out all the stops -- even meeting individually with undecided IOC members in his hotel room before the final vote -- and brought the 2012 games to London.

"In many ways, this is like high school student council elections -- who you're friends with, who you like, who you talked to last," Brenner said.

The IOC is largely made up of European aristocratic men, a mix of VIPs, royalty and former Olympians. Only 16 women are part of that group, which experts say is something of an "old-boys network."

"There's no question in my mind but that the very last moment is the most important moment, and that's why it was so important that Tony Blair went to the IOC at the time that London was being considered for the Games," said former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who also served as chief executive of the organizing committee that brought the winter Olympics to Salt Lake City in 2002. "I think his attending there is, without a question, attributing to the fact that London won the games."

"He lobbied them hard. He committed to them that the games would be successful, and that made all the difference in the world," Romney told ABC News. "Those things make an enormous difference."