Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Does Obama have time to lobby for Chicago's Olympic bid?

Chicago is delighted that Obama will go to the 2016 Summer Olympics host-city selection vote in Copenhagen Oct. 2. But can healthcare reform manage without him – even for a day?

By Staff writer / September 28, 2009

In this Sept. 16 file photo, President Barack Obama uses a light saber as he "attacks" Olympic fencer Tim Morehouse who won a silver medal in Men's Saber Fencing at the Beijing Olympics.

Charles Dharapak/AP



Two weeks ago, President Obama said he was too busy with healthcare reform to go to Copenhagen on Oct. 2 personally to pitch Chicago for the 2016 Summer Games. First lady Michelle Obama would do just fine as head of the delegation.

Skip to next paragraph

On second thought....

Now Mr. Obama himself is going – flying out Thursday night, back on Friday – and the White House is on the defensive.

“I think the president believes healthcare is in better shape,” press secretary Robert Gibbs said at a Monday briefing. “I believe he felt strongly and personally that he should go and make the case for the United States.”

The press corps seemed a tad incredulous that healthcare was faring that much better than two weeks ago and returned to the topic repeatedly. Twenty-three times, to be exact. Mr. Gibbs insisted that Obama would have made the same move for any US city, and not just because it’s Chicago.

USOC to Obama: We need you

But as concern grew that Chicago was going to lose, Obama faced increasing pressure to go. Last week, the White House revealed that an advance team had gone to Copenhagen, “to preserve the option” for Obama to go, as Gibbs put it.

Privately, administration officials suggested Obama would go if he thought he could tip the decision.

There’s also evidence that a personal appearance by a country’s leader can make a difference. London won the 2012 Summer Games after then-Prime Minister Tony Blair personally showed up at the meeting. (Paris was the favorite going in.) Sochi won the 2014 Winter Games after Russia’s then-prime minister, Vladimir Putin, showed up.