x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Obama backs Chicago 2016 Olympic bid

The US president writes to the IOC promising the United States would "welcome the world with open arms".

The US president Barack Obama has officially put his weight behind Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid.
The US president Barack Obama has officially put his weight behind Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid.

LONDON // The US president Barack Obama has written to the International Olympic Committee members promising the United States would "welcome the world with open arms" if Chicago is awarded the 2016 Summer Games. "The City of Chicago is designed to host global celebrations and it will deliver a spectacular Olympic experience for one and all," Mr Obama said in a letter to IOC members.

The 338-word typed form letter, dated September 10, is addressed to individual members and bears the signature of the president. It raises the possibility of Mr Obama going to Copenhagen to push the Chicago bid at the October 2 vote. Chicago, hoping to take the Summer Olympics to the US for the first time since 1996, is in a tight contest with Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Madrid. "I deeply appreciate the tremendous work of the Olympic Movement and wish to convey my strong support for Chicago 2106," Mr Obama said in the letter, citing the "transformative power" of the Olympics to unite people.

Mr Obama, who served as a senator from Illinois and calls Chicago home, said he has supported the city's Olympic bid since the candidacy was launched in 2006. "As President, I see the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games as an extraordinary opportunity for America to renew our bonds of friendship and welcome the world to our shores with open arms," he said. "If you honour Chicago with your selection, we will ensure that the Olympic and Paralympic Games are a key priority for our nation."

Mr Obama noted that he has already established a White House office of Olympic and youth sport. "You can count on our government to support Chicago's quest to host an unforgettable event and strengthen the Olympic movement," he said. "I believe we have a historic opportunity to do great things together, and I look forward to discussing that opportunity with you, if not in Copenhagen, then soon thereafter if Chicago is your choice."

The letter is dated a day before the White House announced that Mr Obama was unable to commit to going to Copenhagen because of the health care debate, and that he was sending first lady Michelle Obama to lead the Chicago delegation. Since then, the White House has left open the possibility that Mr Obama will make a last-minute decision to join his wife in Copenhagen. An advance White House team has travelled to the Danish capital to make preparations for a possible presidential trip.

The president of Brazil Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and the Spanish King Juan Carlos have said they will be in Copenhagen for the vote. Tokyo's bid organisers are urging the new prime minister Yukio Hatoyama to go. * AP