Obama backs Chicago

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WASHINGTON, September 17 – US President Barack Obama on Wednesday delivered a strong, personal and highly visible endorsement to the 2016 Olympic bid of his hometown of Chicago, declaring: "We want these Games."OBAMA_International Olympic Committee (IOC) members will decide the host city for the 2016 Summer Games on October 2 in Copenhagen. Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro are the finalists.

"Chicago is ready. The American people are ready. We want these Games," Obama said in an event at the White House dedicated to the Olympics, Paralympics and youth sport.

"We are fired up about this," Obama, a former senator of Illinois and resident of Chicago, said on the south lawn of the White House. "Let the Games begin, right here in the United States of America."

Obama will send his wife Michelle to lobby IOC members ahead of the vote. Chicago bid backers had hoped Obama himelf would make the trip, but Obama said the fight to pass historic US health care reform would prevent that.

"I promise you we are fired up about this," Obama said. "I would make a case in Copenhagen personally if I was not so firmly committed into making real the promise of quality affordable healthcare for every American.

"But the good news is I am sending a more compelling superstar to represent the city and country we love and that is our First Lady."

King Juan Carlos of Spain and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva are expected to travel to Copenhagen. London was awarded the 2012 Summer Games partly because British prime minister Tony Blair went to Singapore to lobby.

"I support this bid. The United States supports this bid," Obama said. "Our nation from the local to the national level is committed to the success of these Games.

"We want these Games, and if you choose Chicago, I promise you this, Chicago will make America proud and America will make the world proud."

Rio de Janeiro, bidding to become the first South American city to host an Olympics, and Chicago are seen as front-runners.

Many existing venues and a compact geographical staging area are seen as the strengths of Chicago’s bid, with Obama calling his home of nearly 25 years "a city of broad shoulders, big hearts and bold dreams."

"It is a city of bustle and gleaming promise, a city like America itself, where the world’s races and religions and nationalities come together and reach for the dream that brought them here."

Before a crowd of youth sport enthusiasts, the First Lady joked that her husband was much better in athletics than fencing in a private session.

"You should have seen the president in there fencing. It was pathetic," she said with a smile. "But he passed the baton really well."

That might make him useful to the US relay teams. Both the men and women flubbed the exchange at Beijing to scuttle their medal hopes.

Michelle Obama gave a hint what her sales pitch might be like in Denmark during the White House ceremony, quoting the Olympic charter at times and stressing the transformational power of the Games.

"I’m reminded of the commitment to excellence that the Games embody," she said. "No matter where you are from, if you dream big enough and work hard enough, there are no limits to what you can achieve.

"The Olympics isn’t just about what happens in one city every two or four years. It’s also about how a nation is transformed during the years leading up to the Games, and the legacy that lasts in those cities long after.

"Barack and I would feel such tremendous pride to see the Olympic torch burning brightly in the city that we love so much."

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