Top Olympic Bid Stories of 2009: #3 The Obamas Cause Distraction Prior To 2016 Vote

For the second year, GamesBids.com is releasing our list of Top Ten Olympic Bid Stories for 2009. These stories, from the mainstream to the obscure, impacted the course of Olympic bids and formed an interesting plotline for 2009.

#3 – The Obamas Cause Distraction Prior To 2016 Vote

It was the GamesBids.com top story of 2008, U.S. President Barack Obama was in a position to make or break Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Games based on how active he was to become in the campaign. Specifically, it was believed, his attendance at the final election at the Olympic Congress in Copenhagen Denmark would show a physical sense of support – enough to put the U.S. city over the top. This theory was modeled after Prime Minister Tony Blair supported London’s winning 2012 bid at the Singapore election and Russian President Valdimir Putin spoke at the final presentation for Sochi’s winning 2014 bid.

Throughout the year the bid committee was questioned whether the President would attend the final presentation and in all cases the bid committee refused to answer for the President or speculate. Reports of his possible attendance were made again and again and again. The issue was whether the President could make room in his schedule amidst his fight for health care reform.

Then, as time was getting short and no committment had been made – the President did some damage control and assigned First Lady Michelle Obama the task of presenting in Copenhagen.

But many still speculated that this was not enough to lock a victory for Chicago. So more preparations were made even before the President confirmed his trip – his calendar was cleared and an advance team made the necessary arrangements.

Finally on September 28 – four days before the election, the White House confirmed the President’s trip. The GamesBids.com BidIndex boosted Chicago’s rating but it still lagged behind Rio by a couple of points.

“Obamamania” spread throughout Copenhagen overshadowing the Olympic Congress and the 2016 vote itself.

Finally, The U.S. President and First Lady participated in Chicago’s final presentations and they failed to impress. The President’s speach was powerful, but not in the spirit of the Olympic Games and a bit out of place. In contrast, Brazil’s President Lula made remarks that literally won the day.

In a stellar upset, Chicago was eliminated on the very first ballot – likley due to internal problems within the United States Olympic Committee that were beyond the reach of the President. However, there was some speculation that all of the attention on the President, to the extent that IOC members were left on a bus for 45 minutes waiting for Obama’s arrrival, caused some damaging resentment.

Either way, it seemed to be a no-win situation for the Obama’s since had they not attended, they would have been blamed for the loss.

Watch for story #2 tomorrow.

#4 -Only Three Suitors Emerge to Bid For 2018 Olympic Winter Games

#5 – Anti-bid Website Created Mystery and Finger-Pointing Among Rivals
#6 – Three Cities in the Running for Second Youth Olympic Games in 2014
#7 – Social Media Becomes Critical Tool In Olympic Bidding
#8 – Too Many Cheesy Bidders In Italy
#9 – Hiroshima and Nagasaki Propose Joint Bid for 2020 Olympic Games
#10 – The Maldives to bid for the 2024 Olympics

About Robert Livingstone


A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.