Obama says U.S. would welcome world

Updated: September 22, 2009, 12:19 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- President Barack Obama has written to International Olympic Committee members promising the United States would "welcome the world with open arms" if Chicago is awarded the 2016 Summer Games.

"The City of Chicago is designed to host global celebrations and it will deliver a spectacular Olympic experience for one and all," Obama said in a letter to IOC members that was obtained by The Associated Press.

As President, I see the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games as an extraordinary opportunity for America to renew our bonds of friendship and welcome the world to our shores with open arms. If you honor Chicago with your selection, we will ensure that the Olympic and Paralympic Games are a key priority for our nation.

-- Excerpt from President Obama's letter

The 338-word typed form letter, dated Sept. 10, is addressed to individual members and bears the signature of the president. It raises the possibility of Obama going to Copenhagen to push the Chicago bid at the Oct. 2 vote.

Chicago -- seeking to host the first Summer Olympics on American soil for the first time since Atlanta in 1996 -- is in a tight contest with Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Madrid.

"I deeply appreciate the tremendous work of the Olympic Movement and wish to convey my strong support for Chicago 2016," Obama said in the letter, citing the "transformative power" of the Olympics to unite people.

Obama, who served as a senator from Illinois and calls Chicago home, said he has supported the city's Olympic bid since it was launched in 2006.

"As President, I see the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games as an extraordinary opportunity for America to renew our bonds of friendship and welcome the world to our shores with open arms," he said. "If you honor Chicago with your selection, we will ensure that the Olympic and Paralympic Games are a key priority for our nation."

Obama noted that he has already established a White House office of Olympic and youth sport.

"You can count on our government to support Chicago's quest to host an unforgettable event and strengthen the Olympic movement," he said. "I believe we have an historic opportunity to do great things together, and I look forward to discussing that opportunity with you, if not in Copenhagen, then soon thereafter if Chicago is your choice."

The letter is dated a day before the White House announced that Obama was unable to commit to going to Copenhagen because of the health care debate, and that he was sending first lady Michelle Obama to lead the Chicago delegation.

Since then, the White House has left open the possibility that Obama will make a last-minute decision to join his wife in Copenhagen. An advance White House team has traveled to the Danish capital to make preparations for a possible presidential trip.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Spanish King Juan Carlos have said they will be in Copenhagen for the vote. Tokyo's bid organizers are urging new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to attend.

Silva, in a letter to IOC members dated Sept. 15, stressed his "total commitment" to Rio's bid and cited the candidacy's strongest case -- that South America has never held the Olympics.

The bid "carries the hopes of our country's youth -- and certainly of South America's youth -- to enjoy the lasting legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games for the first time," the letter, obtained by the AP, said in Portuguese.

Silva said the games would serve as "extraordinary catalysts of the continuous social transformation of our country."

Brazil has offered all the necessary financial guarantees and approved a budget specifically for the Olympics, he said.

"I am motivated more than ever so that we, Brazilians, can work with the IOC to host games that will be unique in celebration, legacy and opportunities," Silva said. "I anxiously await for the opportunity to meet you in October in Copenhagen."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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