Obama Makes Pitch For Olympics In Chicago

In Copenhagen Friday, Olympic officials will announce which city will host the 2016 games. Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo are the contenders. The Chicago team, including President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, made its case. Now, they're waiting for the vote.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

Today in Copenhagen, Olympic officials will announce which city will host the 2016 Olympic Games. The contenders are Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, and Chicago - which has a very prominent supporter - a couple of them, actually. The Chicago team features President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. They made their case. They're now waiting for the vote.

And this story is being covered today by NPR's Cheryl Corley, a Chicagoan, relocated temporarily to Copenhagen.

Hi, Cheryl.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHERYL CORLEY: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: How did the Obamas do?

CORLEY: Well, they did very well. I would say they seemed to be persuasive and they were very emotional, especially on the part of the first lady. She talked about her father and what a factor sports had been in her family's life, and how he taught her to bat a ball. And she made it a very personal account. And the president did so, as well. He said that he looked forward to welcoming the world. He asked the IOC to choose Chicago for the same reasons that he adopted Chicago and calls it home.

And perhaps, Steve, the most powerful message from the president came when an IOC member asked how Chicago was going to deal with foreigners entering into the country during the games.

INSKEEP: Hmm.

CORLEY: And he said what he wanted one of the legacies to be, was a reminder that America, at its best, is open to the world. And he said the government is putting the full force of the White House and the State Department behind the games, so that visitors would feel welcome.

INSKEEP: Of course, lying behind that is that ever since 9/11, it has been more difficult for people from many parts of the world to simply visit the United States.

I suppose, Cheryl Corley, that's going to be a concern on the minds of the Olympic committee. And, of course, also they need to listen to the presentations of the other contending cities.

CORLEY: Yes, they absolutely do. And it's really interesting, because Rio is from a country that has never hosted the games before. And they say now is their time. And President Lula, yesterday, actually stole a phrase that we've often heard during the American presidential campaign. He said, Yes, we can. Brazil can do it. Rio can do it...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CORLEY: ...and now it's our time.

INSKEEP: Well, let's ask Cheryl, since you are a Chicagoan, what people are saying back in your town. Are people excited about the prospect of the Olympics coming?

CORLEY: Well, I think that some people are excited. There are rallies that are for the bid, but there are also rallies against the bid. People are concerned about what that will mean if Chicago gets the games. You know, will there be corruption? Will, you know, some city services be denied money they think that should be coming their way?

But Chicago is really a sports town. And I think that that's what the backers of the bid are really hoping for, is that the Chicago sports fans would embrace these games.

INSKEEP: So there's a mixed feeling in Chicago. What about in Copenhagen? Do you have any sense of the way the committee might be leaning before they formally vote later today?

CORLEY: Well, we really don't know. This has been an extremely close race all along. Tokyo and Madrid may have somewhat of a problem in the sense that the games in 2008, of course, were in Beijing. And there are upcoming games that will be held in Europe. So the IOC likes to spread these games around, so geographic - there's a geographic advantage and disadvantage for cities here.

Rio, of course, argues that the games have never been held in South America. And while games have been held in the United States, of course, the last Summer Games were in 1996 in Atlanta. So some advantages for both the United States and Rio, and some disadvantages for the other two cities. So we'll just have to see how that plays out.

INSKEEP: NPR's Cheryl Corley is in Copenhagen, where the Olympic committee votes later today.

And, Cheryl, we'll be listening for your reports tonight. Thanks very much.

CORLEY: You're quite welcome, Steve.

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