COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Chicago played its two trump cards on Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle both making impassioned speeches as they urged the IOC to choose the Windy City as host of the 2016 Olympics.
The president, who flew overnight from Washington and went straight into the International Olympic Committee session, stressed that Chicago was the place both he and the First Lady called home.
The IOC will choose between Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo in a vote at the end of a day of presentations by the four candidates.
“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,” Obama, the last speaker in Chicago’s 45-minute presentation, said as he opened his address.
Obama said he had lived and traveled in many different places in the world. “Then I came to Chicago. And on those Chicago streets, I worked alongside men and women who were black and white, Latino and Asian, people of every class and nationality and religion.
“I came to discover that Chicago is that most American of American cities but one where citizens from more than 130 nations inhabit a rich tapestry of distinctive neighborhoods.”
Obama, the first sitting U.S. president to address the IOC, said: “I’ve come here today to urge you to choose Chicago for the same reason I chose Chicago nearly twenty-five years ago, the reason I fell in love with the city I still call home.
“And it’s not only because it’s where I met the woman you just heard from, though after getting to know her this week, I’m sure you will all agree that she’s a pretty big selling point for the city.”
The First Lady has been in the Danish capital for two days to lobby IOC members for their votes.
Michelle Obama, dressed all in yellow, preceded her husband and spoke passionately about sitting on her father’s knee as a child to watch and take inspiration from the Olympics and the performances of gymnasts Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci and athlete Carl Lewis.
She said her late father, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, would have been proud to see an Olympic and Paralympic Games in Chicago.
“He never stopped playing with us. He refused to let us take our abilities for granted ... he taught me to throw a ball and a mean right hook better than any boy in our neighborhood,” the First Lady said.
“He taught us the fundamental rules of the game, to engage with honor, with dignity and fair play. My dad was my hero and when I think of what these Games can mean to people I think of people like my dad, people who whatever the problems, would never let go, would work a little harder, would never give up.”
As Obama left with his wife, he told a throng of reporters: “I think Chicago could not have made a better presentation. Now it is up to the IOC. We are grateful for the hospitality. The only thing I am upset about is that they arranged for me to follow Michelle. That is always bad.”
Doug Arnot, senior vice-president of the Chicago delegation, said: “It was incredibly special for us to be there with the President and First Lady. I could not be prouder for the whole team. The presentation was never intended to be a show, it was supposed to be a heartfelt discussion with the IOC. When you watched the eyes of the IOC members they were focused.”
Chicago’s videos and slideshow presentations stressed Chicago’s waterfront location on Lake Michigan, its architecture and monuments and the spirit of togetherness.
Other Chicago speakers, including Mayor Richard Daley, assured the IOC that Chicago would be a perfect partner to host “your Games.”
Additional reporting by John Acher and Karolos Grohmann
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