Chicago 2016 Gets “Unprecedented” Presidential Support

The Politico reports the Obama White House is playing an unprecedented role in Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, received a special ethics waiver from the White House to lead the federal government’s effort to bring the 2016 Games to Chicago. The Chicago Tribune reports she said the waiver was needed only out of an abundance of caution in trying to be transparent.

Jarrett told the Chicago Tribune, “we wanted to have one point of contact in the White House who is responsible to make sure everything runs smoothly. Our goal is to try to win the bid”.

According to The Politico no president has been as closely associated with an Olympic proposal as Obama. Canadian IOC member Dick Pound said, “without Obama in the White House, I would say there would be no chance whatsoever for the U.S. winning. The United States is the only country in this race that has had an absolutely extraordinary transformational experience with the election of Obama, which weighs heavily in its favour”.

The Politico reports President Obama has recorded two separate videos supporting the bid since his election as president, one for presentation to the General Assembly of the European Olympic Committee in Istanbul, and a second that was shown to IOC members during their tour of the city last month.

According to some veteran observers and international participants in the Olympic site selection process, Obama is viewed internationally as the engine driving the Chicago bid.

Chicago 2016 spokeswoman Mica Matsoff said that if Chicago wins the bid, Jarrett “would head a special office to provide top-level support to Chicago” by coordinating among federal agencies that might have a role in the Olympics – which would be a first for a U.S. administration.

An IOC member who did not want to be identified said, “President Obama has made serious efforts to improve the overall image of the U.S. around the world. That reflects favourably on the image of the U.S. within the IOC”.

Rania Elwani, an IOC member from Egypt, who The Politico reports said she adores President Obama and has a picture of him on her refrigerator, said the president’s support for Chicago’s bid would definitely have an impact on her vote. “It’s important to know how much involvement the government is willing to show”.

Both agreed with another IOC member who said it could help Chicago if Obama traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark October 2 to personally deliver Chicago’s pitch to the IOC members. That’s when the host city for the 2016 Games will be elected.

But some IOC members reportedly were cool to the Obama approach. One suggested that Obama and the rest of the heads of state might better serve their respective bids by staying out of the competition. The member said, “I strongly believe that presidents of states should not be directly involved in the Olympic selection process”.