UPDATE 1-Olympics-Obama keeps everyone guessing on Olympic trip

Thu Sep 24, 2009 4:34pm EDT

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(Adds Gibbs saying Obama may go, previous WASHINGTON)

PITTSBURGH, Sept 24 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama "absolutely" may go to Copenhagen next week to make a direct appeal to Olympics organizers to choose Chicago for the 2016 Summer Games, his spokesman said on Thursday.

Officially, the plan is still for Obama's wife, Michelle, to attend the International Olympic Committee meeting in Copenhagen next week, when the host of the 2016 Games will be chosen from four candidate cities -- Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and the Obamas' hometown of Chicago.

Obama told IOC President Jacques Rogge earlier this month that he had to stay in the United States to campaign for his healthcare overhaul, which is proving a difficult sell in the U.S. Congress.

But a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Thursday an advance team had been in Copenhagen for several days to prepare for a possible visit by Obama. The official stressed, however, that a visit "is not currently on his calendar."

Asked if it was possible Obama himself might go, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters: "Absolutely."

Obama spent this week attending his first U.N. General Assembly in New York and flew on Thursday to Pittsburgh to host a G20 gathering of rich and developing nations.

IOC officials said earlier they were not expecting Obama to attend the Oct. 2 meeting.

"Nothing has changed since the last time when he told the president (Jacques Rogge) he would not able to attend. We are not aware of anything new," an IOC official said.

The race to host the 2016 Olympics is looming as one of the tightest yet and U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) officials have made no secret of their belief the president could swing the vote their way.

Chicago, once considered the front-runner to land the 2016 Games, has stumbled down the homestretch, having been dragged into disputes between the IOC and USOC over revenue-sharing and attempts to launch an Olympic television network. (Reporting by Steve Holland, editing by Will Dunham)

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