Obama to Plead Chicago’s Case

by Dave Schuler on September 28, 2009

The big news here in Chicago is that President Obama will, indeed, fly to Copenhagen to plead Chicago’s case for hosting the 2016 Olympics before the International Olympic Committee:

President Barack Obama, who initially planned to let First Lady Michelle Obama represent the United States in Copenhagen this week, when the International Olympic Committee chooses a site for the 2016 summer games, plans to travel there too.

The White House, which earlier had announced that an advance team was headed to Copenhagen to prepare for a possible presidential trip to Copenhagen, confirmed this morning that Obama will travel Thursday night. The IOC meets Friday.

A senior administration official told the Tribune Washington Bureau this morning that Obama will travel to Copenhagen Thursday night, and return following the Friday meeting. The first lady plans to travel Tuesday, and meet with individual memebers of the IOC on Wednesday and Thursday to make Chicago’s case for the games. The president will join her at the full committee meeting on Friday.

Chicago is competing with Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo for the games.

Getting the Olympics would be the crowning achievement of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s career as mayor and it has his full-throated support:

“President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama symbolize the hope, opportunity and inspiration that makes Chicago great, and we are honored to have two of our city’s most accomplished residents leading our delegation in Copenhagen,” said Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. “Who better to share with members of the International Olympic Committee the commitment and enthusiasm Chicago has for the Olympic and Paralympic Movement than the President and First Lady.”

From what I can tell most Chicagoans are more ambivalent about the Olympics. What the Olympics will actually achieve for Chicago rather than for Mayor Daley and his political cronies is ambiguous at best. The cost is definitely a consideration and nearly everyone (except the mayor) believes that the case for the Olympics in Chicago as an engine for economic development is being overstated. There’s a good summary of Chicago’s case at Wikipedia.

If the venues can be kept within the compact area of Chicago proper, well and good. However, if the need for specialized venues expands into the suburbs, particularly the western suburbs, the Olympics could become a nightmare, immobilizing the city.

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