Chicago to try and line up Obama for Olympic bId
By Martyn Ziegler PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
BEIJING (Ticker)—Barack Obama could do for Chicago what former British prime minister Tony Blair did for London, if all goes according to plan for the American city’s 2016 Olympic bid.
Chicago is already planning to persuade the next president - either Obama or his Republican rival John McCain - to go to Copenhagen in October next year in an effort to smooth talk International Olympic Committee members in the final days before the vote for the 2016 site.
Blair’s two days in Singapore in 2005 are credited with tipping the balance in favor of London and although Chicago is the clear favorite to win it is wary of being seen as front-runners against rivals Tokyo, Madrid, and Rio de Janeiro.
Obama is the favored choice of Chicago, as his home is in the city and he has long been endorsed by Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley. He also has the star quality that the IOC members love and McCain slightly lacks.
“Both the presidential candidates have been supportive of our bids,” Chicago 2016 chief executive Pat Ryan told PA SportsTicker. “Obama of course is from Chicago and did a video for us in our domestic phase.
“He lives three blocks from where our Olympic Stadium will be. He is from the same political party as our mayor, who endorsed him (in the presidential nomination race against Hillary Clinton).”
Whoever wins the election, Ryan is adamant the next president must go to Copenhagen, as George Bush’s lack of a presence in 2005 helped doom New York’s bid for 2012.
“I think that the IOC wants to go where they are really wanted and so it’s very important that the head of state is there, and I believe whichever candidate wins they will do that,” Ryan said. “It worked well for London - Tony Blair did a great job - and it worked well for Sochi with Vladimir Putin.”
Ryan and his officials have already tapped London organizers for lessons in victory, and are copying the idea of an Olympic Stadium that will be reduced in size after the Games.
And like London but in contrast to Beijing, they are emphasizing that Chicago will be a compact Games, with 100 percent of the athletes being housed in the Olympic Village with 12 of the venues within walking distance.
“London have been very helpful, and Seb Coe is a fantastic guy - he’s a really nice person who wants to share thoughts, what worked for them and where they made mistakes,” Ryan said. “We learned from London about the stadium, and (like London’s) it will be a legacy stadium that will be reduced in size and will be used for athletics and other sporting and cultural events for that community, which is predominantly an African-American community.
“Our stadium is very beautiful, practical, functional and relatively economical and the design is something other countries could utilize afterwards.”
Apart from the fact that it would be 20 years since the last Olympics in the U.S., the other point being pushed by Chicago is that there has never been a Games in the middle of America.
The other big factor in their favor is that in terms of the TV and sponsorship market, the 105-odd IOC members may feel tempted to cash in on the riches that would be made available by a U.S.-based Olympics.