September 19, 2009 / 12:06 AM / 8 years ago

Olympics-Brazil sees Obama absence helping others in vote

RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept 18 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama’s absence from next month’s vote for the host city of the 2016 Olympic Games could diminish Chicago chances, Brazil’s Sports Minister Orlando Silva Jr said on Friday.

Chicago, Obama’s home town, is bidding against Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo.

While Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Spain’s King Juan Carlos have confirmed they will attend the Oct. 2 vote in Copenhagen, Obama will send his wife Michelle instead.

Obama told International Olympic Committee (IOC) chairman Jacques Rogge last week that he would not go to Denmark due to domestic political issues.

“The absence of President Barack Obama at the IOC session to choose the host city for the 2016 Olympic Games will strongly handicap the city of Chicago,” Silva told foreign journalists in Rio de Janeiro.

“We are very confident because we realise there is great respect in the international community for the president of the Brazilian Republic.”

The presence of chiefs of state at Olympic voting has taken on greater importance in recent IOC sessions.

Former Prime Minster Tony Blair was regarded as having played a key role in obtaining the 2012 Games for London and Russian ex-leader Vladimir Putin in securing the 2014 Winter Games for Sochi.

Tokyo’s bidding body said this week they would ask Japan’s new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to travel to Copenhagen.

Rogge has said there is no clear favourite and the winner will be decided by a “very tight” margin.

Brazil is confident of becoming the first South American city to hold the Olympics after staging the Panamerican Games in 2007 and having won the right to hold the soccer World Cup in 2014.

“In all the bidding presentations there was a good reception and understanding of Rio de Janeiro’s message,” Silva said.

“We want to transform the city of Rio de Janeiro through the Olympic Games, reinforcing sport as an instrument of social change, bringing the Olympic movement to South America.”

Writing by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires, editing by Greg Stutchbury; to query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com

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