Oprah leads Chicago 2016 delegation

Updated: September 24, 2009, 12:31 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Oprah's trying to land another big get.

The talk show queen will travel to Denmark next week to lobby International Olympic Committee members to award the 2016 Games to her beloved city.

The IOC will choose a host city Oct. 2, and Chicago is in a tight contest with Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.

"I love and believe in Chicago, and I think it would be the perfect host city for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games," Winfrey said Wednesday.

Winfrey's addition adds some serious star power to what was already an impressive delegation. First lady Michelle Obama will lead the group and be joined by 14 Olympic and two Paralympic gold medalists, including Michael Johnson, Nadia Comaneci, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Nastia Liukin. Ten other Olympians and Paralympians also are going.

On Thursday, it was announced that Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who was co-captain of the basketball team while at Harvard and played professionally in Australia, would be joining the U.S. contingent.

And then there's President Barack Obama. He is still trying to decide whether to appear personally on behalf of his adopted hometown, but he did send an advance team to Copenhagen this week.

That Winfrey would be part of the delegation is hardly a surprise. She's been an ardent supporter of the bid, and said earlier this month that she'd do whatever organizers needed. When she threw a party on Chicago's famed Michigan Avenue to celebrate the start of her 24th season, she said she hoped it would impress IOC members.

She also had members of the 2008 Olympic team on her show after Beijing.

"As a member of our community and as someone who understands and demonstrates the value of helping others, she embodies the spirit of so many Chicagoans and is truly an emissary for our bid and for the city of Chicago," Chicago 2016 chairman Patrick Ryan said.

Johnson had the defining performance the last time the Summer Games were in the United States. Wearing bright gold shoes, he became the first -- and so far, only -- man to win the 200 and 400 meters at the same Olympics.

Comaneci's string of seven perfect 10s at the Montreal Games captivated the world, and the Romanian teenager appeared on the covers of Sports Illustrated, Newsweek and Time.

Liukin is the reigning Olympic champion, joining Mary Lou Retton and Carly Patterson as the only American women to win the all-around title. Joyner-Kersee, an Illinois native, is among the greatest track and field athletes ever, winning three golds in the heptathlon and long jump.

Joining them are fellow gold medalists Michael Conley, the 1992 triple jump champion who grew up near the planned Olympic stadium in Washington Park; Bart Conner (gymnastics); Bryan Clay (decathlon); Brandi Chastain (soccer); Bob Ctvrtlik (volleyball); Donna de Varona and Gary Hall Jr. (swimming); Ron Freeman (track and field); Edwin Moses (hurdles); Kerri Walsh (beach volleyball); and April Holmes and Linda Mastandrea (Paralympic track and field).

Olympians Willie Banks and Connie Moore (track and field); Bob Berland (judo); Dragomir Cioroslan (weightlifting); Anita De Frantz (rowing); David Diaz (boxing); Mike Plant (speedskating); Bill Scherr (wrestling); and Diane Simpson (rhythmic gymnastics); and Paralympian Paul Moran (wheelchair tennis and sitting volleyball) also will be part of the delegation.

"It's hard for me to be unbiased about this," said Conner, a Chicago native and double gold medalist at the 1984 Olympics. "When you look at the plan and the spectacular city and the legacy plan and the convenience for the athletes against the backdrop of the city, on lots of levels, Chicago gets it and understands what the Olympics is about."

Noticeably absent is Michael Jordan, who played for the Chicago Bulls and has appeared in videos supporting Chicago's bid.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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