Yunji de Nies Reports:
Michelle Obama says she is ready to campaign for her home town. The First Lady leaves for Copenhagen tomorrow evening, and from the moment she arrives, she will begin lobbying for Chicago to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. She, White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, and TV mega mogul Oprah Winfrey will try to meet with every one of the 100+ International Olympic Committee members.
“The gloves are off!” the First Lady declared with a smile. She spoke with a handful of reporters in the State Dining room at White House, and relayed a story from last weekend’s G20 Summit in Pittsburgh. At the spouses dinner she hosted, she said she greeted the first lady of Brazil then, “I said, I’m gonna hug you now, and then I’m going after you. And she said ‘you too.’”
Rio, Madrid and Toyko are among the final cities hoping to host.
Mrs. Obama likened the next few days, to final days of a campaign.
“People are making up their minds until the very end. And that one conversation or you know, one example or illustration that connects could make the difference,” she said. “We’re just not gonna assume that the decision is made, so that no matter what the outcome is we’ll feel as country, as a team, that we’ve done everything we can to bring it home.”
That’s very much why the President decided he too should join the team on the ground in Denmark. The President will take a red-eye flight on Thursday night and spend just a few hours on the ground. Jarrett says the administration has already been involved in the pitch at a number of levels. The President, Vice President and First Lady have been working the phones. Last week at the UN, Jarrett met with Tony Blair, who won the games for London in 2012. The two spoke for an hour about strategy.
“He shared with me his perspective on the home stretch and what was necessary to be successful,” Jarrett said.
Mrs. Obama said she will bring a personal touch to her presentation, talking about her own ties to Chicago and why it would make the best host city. Her own home is just blocks from where many of the events would be held. She and the President will speak separately, then take questions. “We’re not going to do a joint poem or anything. We’re not gonna sing together.” she quipped.
Asked about Oprah Winfrey’s role, Mrs. Obama laughed and said, “She’s Oprah. Enough said.”
Winfrey is part of the delegation arriving on Wednesday morning. The First Lady says the TV talk show host will meet with IOC members, speaking about Chicago as both a business woman and resident.
“She brings the personal, the professional, and she brings that extra star quality that is important,” the first lady said.
Mrs. Obama said that the Olympics celebrates much of what she supports as first lady: health, fitness and nutrition.
“The Olympics will be such an important jumping off point for those conversations,” she said. “We can talk about sports, we can talk about nutrition, we can talk about what it means to be an athlete? What’s a paralympian?”
The Paralympics, games for athletes with physical and visual disabilities, have a prominent place in Chicago’s bid. Mrs. Obama said to her, that is one of the most exciting aspects of these games.
“My father was disabled and I think what it would have mean for him to see someone in his shoes compete,” she explained, “Kids need to see that and that needs to be celebrated just as much, if not more.”
Asked about if the President would lose face, should Chicago not get chosen, Mrs. Obama shrugged.
“You’re darned if you, you’re darned if you don’t. I’d rather be on the side of doing. I’d rather be on the side of doing.” she said, “This is not one of those that you worry about what happens if not, you know, this is the country’s bid. This is not the President’s bid, this is everyone pulling for this.”