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Obama to Front Chicago's Olympics Bid

President Barack Obama is taking his support for Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics one step further -- he plans to make a personal appeal to the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen on his adopted hometown's behalf.

The White House says Obama and the first lady will "both make presentations to the IOC during Friday's session" in Denmark. It says they will "discuss why Chicago is best to host" the games.

"I think he hopes that he can make a strong case for Chicago and America's bid for the Olympics in 2016," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday afternoon. "Obviously, any Olympics showcases the country that those Olympics are in, and there's a tangible economic benefit to those games being here, and the -- the president wants to help out America's bid."

Obama would be the first U.S. president to appeal in person to the IOC for an Olympics event. He's already sent letters to some committee members, promising a "spectacular Olympic experience for one and all."

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Chicago is going up against Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo. The committee makes its decision Friday, and heads of state representing Rio and Madrid are already scheduled to attend the IOC meeting that day.

Rio's bid to take the Olympics to South America for the first time in 2016 gained momentum earlier this month when the Brazilian city came off best in a technical evaluation of the four candidate cities.

Chicago, meanwhile, came in for some pointed negative comments - including its financial guarantees and public transportation - and Madrid and Tokyo also took some direct hits from the IOC.

Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, told The Associated Press Monday morning that Obama will leave Thursday and join his wife, Michelle, in Copenhagen, where they'll make the pitch to the International Olympic Committee.

While in Denmark, the statement said, Obama and his wife also will meet with Queen Margrethe and the president will meet with Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen of Denmark.

Obama, who represented Illinois in the U.S. Senate after serving in the Illinois Legislature, is a longtime supporter of Chicago's bid. Michelle Obama is a native of the city and he considers it his adopted home town. Obama recently sent letters to selected IOC members promising a "spectacular Olympic experience for one and all."

"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," Mayor Richard M. Daley said in a statement. "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."

The president had held off on announcing a trip to Copenhagen, saying his first priority was the ongoing debate in Washington over health care reform. But aides said the president determined that his trip wouldn't take away from that process. The legislation is a signature piece of his domestic policy agenda and negotiations on Capitol Hill have been contentious.

But with heads of state representing Rio and Madrid already scheduled to attend the IOC meeting Friday, Chicago's bid organizers had hoped Obama would make an in-person appeal.

"I don't think there's an IOC member on the planet that wouldn't love to meet your president. He's a transformational figure in the world today," longtime IOC member Dick Pound said recently.

Obama is also mobilizing his administration on behalf of Chicago's bid. Senior adviser Jarrett, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, will also be joining the president and first lady in Copenhagen. All are from Illinois.

They join a Chicago contingent already packed with more star power than a Hollywood red carpet. The first lady is one of the few people who rivals her husband in visibility, and she'll be joined by talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who trails only Angelina Jolie on Forbes' annual Celebrity 100 list, a ranking of the rich and famous' most powerful.

Chicago is also bringing 14 Olympic and two Paralympic gold medalists, including Michael Johnson, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Nadia Comaneci and Nastia Liukin.

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