It's official: Obama will travel to Denmark
September 28, 2009 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- The White House says President Barack Obama will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, to make a pitch for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Chicago.
Chicago 2016 spokesman Patrick Sandusky confirmed the report early Monday.
A White House spokesperson said President Obama will take part in Chicago's final presentation to International Olympic Committee members. No U.S. president has ever personally lobbied the IOC in a candidate city's final presentation.
The president will leave Thursday and join his wife, Michelle, and others in his administration in making the pitch. Many others in the delegation will arrive earlier in the week, and in fact, key presenters, such as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, have already arrived.
"We are very excited obviously that the president and the first lady are going to go together now. It's exciting. Clearly it helps to have him be there. We think that's a good thing," said Arnold Randall, Chicago 2016.
Members of Chicago 2016 received confirmation on Monday morning that the president would make the trip. And they say his appearance won't hurt.
"I think it can make a difference. Ultimately, our bid, we will win or lose based on the strength of our bid...I think it does help to have him and the First Lady there, and others from his cabinet there to help express the values of the bid," said Randall.
Initially, first lady Michelle Obama was going to represent the White House as the president wanted to focus on health care reform. But the White House spokesman says the president feels better about the health care situation.
"He felt strongly and personally that he should go and make the case for the United States, and that's what he's going to do," said Robert Gibbs, White House press secretary.
The president's appearance in Copenhagen will be a natural extension of his efforts to support the games coming to Chicago, according to longtime friend and advisor Valerie Jarrett.
"It will be the dynamic duo of both the president and the first lady. I think the fact that the first lady was born and raised in Chicago and grew up not far from where many of the venues will be, coupled with our president and the home he adopted and calls his home, it will be terrific. Not just for Chicago, but really for our country," said Jarrett.
Chicago's Olympic bid team is scheduled to depart O'Hare Airport for Copenhagen at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Monday night. There will be a send-off presentation in the terminal before the delegation leaves.
The 2016 delegation will travel on a United Airlines 747 plane, decorated with Chicago's Olympic logo. It can hold more than 370 people. About 200 people, including Olympic athletes, Chicago bid members, dignitaries and members of the media, will also be on board.
A White House advance team went to Denmark just in case the president was able to make the trip. Initially, the president didn't want to commit to the trip with intense efforts to bring about health care reform ongoing here at home. The president's participation is welcomed by 2016 committee members.
A White House official told ABC News the president decided to go at this late hour because the competition looks very close. They believe "it's gonna take everything we got" to win. The official also said the president feels that health care reform will not be negatively impacted and plans on arriving Friday morning "to seal the deal," making a very short trip.
"There is no greater expression of the support our bid enjoys, from the highest levels of government and throughout our country, than to have President Obama join us in Copenhagen for the pinnacle moment in our bid," said Chicago 2016 chairman and CEO Patrick G. Ryan. "We are honored that President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be with us to extend a hand of friendship on behalf of our nation and the City of Chicago as we seek to welcome the world for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games."
In addition to the president, first lady Michelle Obama and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, other senior governmental officials in the Chicago 2016 delegation include Jarrett, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.
Duncan and LaHood were both from Illinois prior to their Washington posts.
Chicago faces competition from Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo.
Official White House press release on the president's trip:
"Today, the White House announced that President Barack Obama will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark to support Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games at the 121st International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session. On Friday, October 2nd, IOC members will elect the host city for the 2016 Summer Games.
"President Obama will join First Lady Michelle Obama, who will be leading the United States delegation to Copenhagen. Mrs. Obama will arrive in Copenhagen on Wednesday, September 30, along with Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama and head of the White House Office on Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport.
"President Obama will depart Washington on the evening of Thursday, October 1 and arrive in Copenhagen on the morning of October 2 local time, just prior to Chicago's presentation to the voting members of the IOC. He will arrive back in Washington on Friday afternoon.
"President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will both make presentations to the IOC during Friday's session. They will discuss why Chicago is best to host the 2016 Summer Games, and how the United States is eager to bring the world together to celebrate the ideals of the Olympic movement.
"While in Denmark, the President and First Lady will meet with Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort. President Obama will also meet with Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen."
U.S. Olympic Committee Statement on President Barack Obama Attending IOC Session
The White House announced today that President Barack Obama will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, to support the Chicago bid to host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He will join First Lady Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama and head of the White House Office on Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport. For the full release, please click HERE.
"We could not be more pleased to welcome President Barack Obama to our delegation for the IOC selection of the host city for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. His attendance - along with that of First Lady Michelle Obama, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and other key members of his staff - speaks volumes regarding his administration's unprecedented support for this bid and for the worldwide Olympic Movement.
"The Olympic and Paralympic Games bring the world together for the peaceful pursuit of excellence, and in the spirit of international outreach and solidarity. These principles are perfectly aligned with the vision of the Obama Administration and our country's ideals. The USOC extends our sincere appreciation to President Obama and his staff for their unwavering support to bring the Games back to America and to Chicago in 2016."
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