October 2, 2009 / 7:31 AM / in 8 years

Famous athletes boost Chicago bid on eve of vote

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Famous U.S. Olympians including sprinter Michael Johnson, basketball player David Robinson and gymnast Nastia Liukin lent muscle to Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics on the eve of the choice of host city.

Chicago is vying with Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro to host the Summer Games, and U.S. President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in the Danish capital on Friday to present Chicago’s bid to the International Olympic Committee.

“We’re all so hopeful for Chicago,” said Liukin, winner of five Olympic medals. “If anything could top my Olympic experience it would be able to compete on my home turf.”

Robinson, retired from the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, said that staging the Olympics was not only something for Chicago or the U.S.

“It’s about the honor of hosting the world, it’s about giving a platform for every athlete and every story to be told,” Robinson said. “I think we can do that.”

Chicago’s representatives in Copenhagen include husband-and-wife gymnasts Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci, the Romanian winner of five Olympic golds but now a naturalized U.S. citizen.

“In our household we have 11 Olympic medals. Of course nine of them are hers,” said Conner who was on the gold medal-winning gymnastics team in the 1984 Games and won an individual gold on the parallel bars.

“My most famous claim to fame is that I‘m married to Nadia Comaneci,” he quipped.

“We are confident we could deliver a spectacular Games experience,” said Conner, a 51-year-old Chicago native. “In Chicago, we have the facilities, the coaches, the mindset.”

Conner said it was a big honor that heads of state were attending to back their cities, in addition to Obama, Spain’s King Juan Carlos, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama have come to Denmark.

“We are honored -- what a thrill that for a short period of time the world is sort of stopping and watching Copenhagen to see what happens,” he said.

Editing by Ed Osmond

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