Veteran participants in the Olympic site selection process are describing President Barack Obama as the driving force to bring the 2016 Summer Games to Chicago, according to a report in Politico.
“Everybody who follows the bids is talking about the Obama factor,” said Robert Livingstone, an expert in the Olympic bid process who runs the website GamesBids.com. “It’s the biggest issue of the whole campaign.”
Chicago’s mayor Richard Daley has even called Obama the “quarterback” of the city’s effort to capture the games and pull the rug out from under the other competitors -- Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo for the games, according to the Associated Press.
For sure, the Obama administration is playing an unprecedented role.
No U.S. president has made a personal appearance before the International Olympic Committee – with most practicing a strict hands-off approach to the Games, according to David Wallechinsky, vice president of the International Society of Olympic Historians.
But times are changing – with Politico reporting that nearly every IOC member it has interviewed warning that at this point, it might hurt the bid if Obama skipped the trip to Copenhagen.
Indeed, the heads of state of Japan, Brazil and Spain have already made commitments to lobby for their respective cities’ bids up-close-and-personal in Denmark, according to various media sources.
For its part, Spain wants to keep its already good buzz going strong.
Just last week, Madrid’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics scored heavy points with the evaluating commission of the IOC, commission head Nawal El Moutawakel reported.
“We have been most impressed to find what the city of Madrid could offer to the Olympic movement,” El Moutawakel said at a press conference last week.
The spirit of the competition has reportedly not been lost on the White House, with top adviser Valerie Jarrett heading the effort to ensure that the full force, prestige and mystique of the Chief Executive works to best advantage in getting a first place finish for Chicago.
Even the six-point design of “the Chicago star” that serves as the bid’s official logo seems borrowed from themes used by the Obama campaign -- with hope representing the top point and other points emphasizing respect, harmony and celebration.
But all is not in perfect harmony, according to a recent report by the Chicago Tribune.
Apparently unimpressed with visions of hope and celebration, two South Side community groups have held protests to voice their fears that the Olympics could drive them from their homes and neighborhoods.
“I’m afraid of losing my house,” said Valencia Hardy, a spokeswoman for Housing Bronzeville. Members fear that their neighborhood -- located near the proposed Olympic stadium -- will suffer an onslaught not of confetti but skyrocketing property-tax bills.
Members of a second group, the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, expressed anxiety that the city would be forced to implement its eminent domain powers to take control of their property.
None of this neighborhood angst, however, has slowed Obama down.
To date he has taped two videos touting the bid -- one for presentation to the General Assembly of the European Olympic Committee in Istanbul and a second that was rolled for IOC members touring Chicago last month.
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