Olympics: Obama lobbies 2016 Olympics inspectors for Chicago

CHICAGO, Mira Oberman - President Barack Obama welcomed the International Olympic Committee to his hometown Saturday as he put the weight of the White House and his international popularity behind Chicago's bid for the 2016 summer games.
"Chicago is that most American of American cities," Obama said in a video address on the first day of the IOC Evaluation Commission's tour of the "Windy City."

"It's a city where the world's races, and religions, and nationalities all live and work and play and reach for the American Dream that brought them here; where our civic parades wave the colors of every culture; where our classrooms are filled with the sounds of the world's languages; and where jazz and rancheras and bhangra can be heard down the street from one another."
The IOC panel is meeting with bid officials and will tour proposed venues over the coming days as the US Midwestern metropolis challenges Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 spectacle.
Once considered the frontrunner, according to the influential GamesBids.com site, Chicago has slipped to fourth after a series of apparent setbacks.
But organizers are hoping to cash in on Obama's star power and a cityscape deliberately designed to host large civic festivals and events.
The bid includes plans to build just five event venues and to make use of Chicago's ample existing sports facilities and a network of lakefront parks to transform the downtown area into a single civic arena.
"Once you discover the Chicago that I know... I am confident you will discover that you're already in the perfect host city for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games," Obama said.
"And when those games are finally held here, I promise you this: they will not only stir the soul of this city, they will not only stir the soul of America, they will stir the soul of the entire world."
The initial meeting to discuss the city's vision, concept and legacy plans "got off to a great start" said Patrick Sandusky, a spokesman for the Chicago 2016 bid.
The bid's slogan is "let friendship shine" and the overarching vision is to "celebrate the Olympic movement's power to unite all humanity," organizers said.
An opening video described Chicago as a city of festivals and the "ultimate canvas" for the world's greatest architects and highlighted some of its most prominent residents: basketball legend Michael Jordan, talk show phenomenon Oprah Winfrey, and Obama whose election night victory party was held in the city's lakefront Grant Park.
Organizers also highlighted the achievements of a non-profit group, World Sport Chicago, created to help encourage urban children to participate in sports as part of the long-term legacy of the bid.

Sunday, April 5th 2009
Mira Oberman

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