WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. first lady Michelle Obama has a message for other countries seeking to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games: in the fight the “gloves are off.”
The Chicago native heads to Copenhagen this week to promote her hometown in its bid to stage the Summer Olympics, paving the way for her husband, President Barack Obama, who will make a quick trip to Denmark on Friday to try to seal the deal.
“This is very cool for me,” the first lady told reporters in a rare briefing in the White House’s state dining room on Monday. “I could’ve never imagined that I would be leading the team to try to win the Olympic bid.”
Mrs. Obama, who has charmed audiences around the globe since her husband’s victory in the 2008 presidential election, joked that she was ready for battle to secure victory against competitor countries Brazil, Japan and Spain.
“I met with the first lady of Brazil ... We sat next to each other at dinner, and I adore her,” Mrs. Obama said, referring to a shared meal with Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva at the recent G20 summit in Pittsburgh.
“I said, you know, ‘I‘m gonna hug you now and then I‘m going after you in Copenhagen!'” Mrs. Obama continued. “And she said, ‘You too!’ So, gloves are off.”
The White House removed its own symbolic gloves on Monday by announcing the president would jet to Copenhagen to make a statement in person to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) -- the first time a U.S. president has done so.
“Having the leader of the free world there supporting the bid sends a good message, and I think that’s why everyone is so excited ... that he’ll be able to go,” Mrs. Obama said.
“I think it will demonstrate to the IOC that this bid has unprecedented commitment throughout our government.”
White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said both trips were being funded by taxpayers as official business.
Humor may be part of Mrs. Obama’s strategy to sway the IOC. When asked about crime in Chicago, she said to laughter: “Most of these Games are taking place blocks away from my house. There’s good security by my house these days.”
The Obamas still have a home in Chicago.
The first lady also spoke to the political ramifications of a potential U.S. loss after high-profile trips by the Obama team.
“You know, you’re darned if you do and you’re darned if you don‘t. I’d rather be on the side of doing it,” she said.
“We’ve learned just in a campaign process that people are making up their minds until the very end,” she said. “No matter what the outcome is, we’ll feel as a country, as a team, that we’ve done everything that we can to bring it home.”
Editing by Philip Barbara