Lobbying Begins In Denmark For 2016 Olympics

The 121st session of the International Olympic Committee is now under way. On Friday, the IOC will decide which of four cities will host the 2016 Olympics. Chicago represents the bid for the United States. It's running against Rio de Janiero, Madrid, and Tokyo.

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Hardcore campaigning is nothing to new to Chicagoans and today they did serious politicking in Denmark. That's where the International Olympic Committee is meeting to decide who will host the 2016 Summer Games.

American sports stars and first lady Michelle Obama are there. And late tonight, President Obama will arrive for Chicago's final sprint, as NPR's Cheryl Corley reports from Copenhagen.

CHERYL CORLEY: Denmark's ultra-modern opera house sits on an island in the center of Copenhagen. That's where Olympic officials and celebrities gathered tonight for the IOC's opening ceremonies, joining Denmark's Queen Margaret, who had arrived by boat. The queen said she was keenly aware that this Olympic competition had awakened excitement all around the world. The hopes are indeed high, as are the stakes, as this lengthy Olympics campaign of four cities - Madrid, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Chicago - nears its end.

Unidentified Man #1: Chicago?

Unidentified People: 2016.

Unidentified Man #1: Chicago?

Unidentified People: 2016.

CORLEY: Earlier today, U.S. Paralympic and Olympic athletes, including track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee, dressed in matching blue track suits and mingled with IOC members. At their last group press conference to support Chicago's bid, basketball great David Robinson said the effort is bigger than Chicago or the United States.

Mr. DAVID ROBINSON (Basketball Player): This is about the honor of hosting the world, and this is about giving a platform for every athlete in every story to be told.

CORLEY: For Paralympian Linda Mastandria(ph), it was hard to believe that a defining moment in Chicago's effort is so near.

Ms. LINDA MASTANDRIA (Paralympian): Three-and-a-half years ago it felt like it would never come, and here we are. We are on the cusp of being able to bring something so amazing to the kids in the city of Chicago, around the United States and around the world.

CORLEY: And the athletes weren't the only ones lobbying. Plenty of influential people here have been working the IOC crowd as hard as any Chicago precinct captain during a tough political fight. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey has been chatting with IOC members and posing for photographs. First lady Michelle Obama met with IOC members behind closed doors, and tomorrow, she and the president will press Chicago's case one last time before the IOC.

In fact, all the bid cities have heads of state lobbying on their behalf. Earlier today at the Brazilian delegation's hotel, a ballroom quickly filled with reporters who had come to hear Luiz Inacio "Lula" Da Silva root for Rio de Janeiro. Many consider Brazil and Chicago to be the top contenders for the Olympics prize. Lula has said throughout that it's time for the games to come to South America, which has never hosted an Olympics.

President LUIZ INACIO DA SILVA (Brazil): (Speaking foreign language)

CORLEY: Lula ended his remarks by using a very familiar American campaign slogan. Here's the translation.

Unidentified Man: We want to overcome and show the world that yes, we can, we can do it, and this coming from an American mouth, that's very beautiful, but we never say that because in Brazil we were accustomed to say we cannot do it because we are poor countries. We can't do it. No, this time we're thinking and looking towards the world and saying that yes, we can, and we will do it and organize these Olympic games. Thank you very much.

CORLEY: No word yet on whether the yes-we-can theme will be a part of Brazil's presentation tomorrow, as both Presidents Obama and Lula address the IOC. Meanwhile, Tokyo, which hosted the games in 1964 will have Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama on hand for tomorrow's presentation. He'll pitch Tokyo's bid as a festival in the heart of the city.

Madrid has the backing of the still very powerful former IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch. He and Spain's King Juan Carlos support the plan to turn the bulk of the Olympic Village after the games into affordable housing. The IOC will begin hearing each of the four cities' final presentations in the morning.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Copenhagen.

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