Today, we found out that President Obama will be traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark later this week to lobby on behalf of Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. President Obama said earlier this month that the health care debate took priority. Apparently, the health care overhaul is going better than he expected, so he will be able to attend after all, according to the Wall Street Journal. While the U.S. is not stranger to hosting the Olympics as CNN mentions, there are several reasons this bid is significant.
Chief among them is the fact that this marks the first time an American president has personally lobbied for the games. As the New York Times reports, voting for Olympic host cities has become much closer than it used to be, and heads of state can be a deciding factor. According to the article, this phenomenon has only been around for the last few Olympic city selections, most notably with Tony Blair personally advocating for London in 2005, which is largely credited with the surprise awarding of the games to that city. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia was involved in the push for Sochi’s bid in 2007, and that too was successful. Thus, President Obama’s backing of Chicago’s bid should definitely help, especially given his international appeal and the historic nature of his term in office. President Obama should at the very least give the IOC delegates a difficult choice given his natural ability to give better speeches than the average politician and the concrete evidence that America has changed from the foreign policy of President Bush.
Chicago will not be a shoe-in for the 2016 Olympics, however. Every other potential host nation is sending a delegation including its head of state. In addition, there is a strong case for Rio de Janeiro, given that no nation in South America has yet hosted an Olympics. Conversely, the U.S. has hosted four, which could be seen as a disincentive to vote for Chicago. Madrid, Spain, and Tokyo, Japan also make strong cases. Plus, the votes have been very close in the past few times; at this point there is no clear favorite among the delegates, which would mean that the vote could be even closer.
Will President Obama’s personal appeal for his home city be enough to tip the scales in Chicago’s favor? We should know the answer to that sometime on Friday, and I’ll update then.
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