Obama to Visit Denmark to Push Chicago for the 2016 Olympics

President will travel to Copenhagen to pitch his hometown for the 2016 games.

ByABC News
September 28, 2009, 7:58 AM

Sept. 28, 2009 -- In another one of many firsts, President Obama will take the power of the presidential bully pulpit to Copenhagen, Denmark, Friday in an attempt to "seal the deal" for Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympic games.

The first family's home city is among four being considered to host the Olympic -- along with Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. The decision will be made Friday in Copenhagen, and the pressure is on the first family to pull out a win for their hometown.

The president will literally breeze through Copenhagen -- he will be on the ground for a mere three hours -- to root for the Windy City. But his presence could play an important part in the decision-making process.

White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett told ABC News the "dynamic duo" of the president and first lady will speak during the formal final presentations to the International Olympic Committee, and will field queries during the question and answer period. The White House said the first couple will pitch Chicago as the next destination of the Olympic games -- discuss why it's the best choice and show how eager the United States is to host the games and "celebrate the ideals of the Olympic movement."

"He and the first lady have been ardent supporters of bringing the Olympic and Paralympic games to Chicago from the very beginning of the competition," Jarrett said. "So he has been active all along and he decided over the weekend -- as we go into this home stretch -- that it would be important to not leave any stone unturned and that meant that he would join his dynamic wife for the final presentation. ... And so he's there in the home stretch we don't take a single vote for granted. And it's important to him that he's there to demonstrate his commitment."

But the contents of the presentation are top secret.

Jarrett said she couldn't give too many details because of the competition, but did say that "their appeals will be different. The first lady's will be very personal and I think the president's will be both personal but also speaking about how important this is to our country to welcome the Olympic and Paralympic games to our shores."

The Obamas have already been discussing the games with the appropriate parties. Officials said the president raised the issue at the United Nations summit last week and at the G-20. He, the first lady and Vice President Joe Biden have also written letters, participated in videos and been "working the phones" to bring the Olympic games to the United States.

The Obamas are also getting a little extra boost to the effort from a fellow Chicagoan with just as much star power: Oprah Winfrey.

"Our president never takes anything for granted," Jarrett said. "I think the whole strategy here is to roll up our selves, work hard until the absolute last vote is counted. ... We have Oprah, a world icon, going as well. She is going to hit the ground running. It is really a team effort. And it says a lot about this spirit of Chicago and the spirit of our country."

Michelle Obama, who will lead the U.S. delegation, will fly to Denmark Wednesday night and hold one-on-one meetings with officials. She will be joined by her husband on Friday. The White House had previously announced that the first lady, along with a delegation of White House officials with Chicago ties, would travel to Copenhagen to represent the administration and Chicago.

The White House said there were two factors that went into the president's decision. First, he believes that health care negotiations are in a place where his absence for a day won't hurt.

"I think the president believes health care is in better shape. I believe he felt strongly and personally that he should go and make the case for the United States, and that's what he's going to do," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters today.

Secondly, Obama wants to bring the games to his hometown.

"We worked very closely with Chicago 2016 and we have developed a strategy for how to get us to the number of votes we need to win. And so what the president has been doing throughout the process as he's traveled around the world, is he has made selective pitches to key heads of state who he thinks would find the U.S. a compelling location...and so he's very excited about this and... he and the first lady I think will be an irresistible dynamic duo," Jarrett told ABC News.

Bringing the Olympic games to Chicago could mean a significant economic boost for the city. But with issues like health care, Iran and Afghanistan on the forefront, Obama's decision to go to Copenhagen is likely to be panned by some critics. But officials say there is no political risk.

"When is our president ever worried about the political risk?" Jarrett told ABC News. "If he was worried about that, he would of never have run for president."

While in Denmark, the president and first lady will meet with Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort. President Obama will also meet with Prime Minister Lars Lkke Rasmussen.

Chicago officials praised the White House's decision.

"President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama symbolize the hope, opportunity and inspiration that makes Chicago great, and we are honored to have two of our city's most accomplished residents leading our delegation in Copenhagen," Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said in a statement.

Chicago 2016 Chairman and chief executive Patrick G. Ryan, who will be part of the U.S. delegation, also praised the move.

"There is no greater expression of the support our bid enjoys, from the highest levels of government and throughout our country, than to have President Obama join us in Copenhagen for the pinnacle moment in our bid," Ryan said in a statement.

Earlier this month, an IOC member had said that the president's absence would be felt and could affect his vote.

"I don't think there's an IOC member on the planet that wouldn't love to meet your president. He's a transformational figure in the world today," IOC member Dick Pound told the Associated Press. "If he can be persuaded to go, I think it makes a huge difference."