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Gloves are off in 2016 vote

COPENHAGEN, October 2- The bitter, heavyweight battle to host the 2016 Olympics concludes here Friday with President Barack Obama hoping to land the knockout blow which delivers the world's sporting showpiece to Chicago.OLYMPIC_FLAGS_Obama, a former Illinois senator and resident of the American city for nearly 25 years, could play a key role as the 100-plus International Olympic Committee (IOC) members decide which one of the four candidate cities – Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo – will be given the Games.

Obama will join his wife Michelle, who has been here since Wednesday lobbying IOC members, in the final presentation before the vote takes place later in the day.

Valerie Jarrett, one of three special advisors to the President, believes this campaign resembles Obama’s history-making run to the White House.

"It is similar to the Iowa caucuses," said 52-year-old Jarrett. "It’s about meeting people one-on-one. The First Lady also has the opportunity to make a compelling case for Chicago.

"The President will endeavour to do the same thing when he arrives on Friday. We are not taking a single vote for granted. We will work for each vote until the very last moment and we are through the finish line."

Rio too will field their president, the equally charismatic Luis Inacio ‘Lula’ Da Silva in what promises to be a fascinating battle between the most powerful country in the world against the fastest growing country in the developing world.

Lula looks set for a grandstand performance where his powers of persuasion will be set against Obama’s equally-renowned ability to capture an audience.

The 63-year-old has already made a compelling case as to why Rio should be the first South American city to host the Games.

But he must reproduce another command performance later on Friday.

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"With the Games you have to open up your country to the rest of the world – to see Brazil like it truly is," he told a news conference.

"You can’t put a price on that, it’s priceless, showing Rio’s good and bad points, learning to correct the bad things.

"We still have much to do, but we will do it, we are changing the social reality of the poor living in slums – the recovery in our country is unquestionable.

"For other countries the Olympics is just another sporting event – for us it will be unique and extraordinary, a chance to build things that will last as a legacy for other generations."

Tokyo and Madrid, considered to be lagging behind Chicago and Rio, will field their respective prime ministers.

But realistically they must hope for a miracle when IOC President Jacques Rogge opens the envelope and reveals the name of the winning city later on Friday.

Not that they are giving up.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero insisted that victory for Madrid is well within their grasp.

Zapatero, Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon all spent Thursday trying to sway undecided IOC members.

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"Between the three of us we’ve had 50 meetings with IOC members today. We’ve told them the strength of Madrid," said Zapatero.

Tokyo, which hosted the 1964 Olympics, is also remaining upbeat.

"It would be the most watched Olympic Games with four billion people watching on television," said bid chief Ichiro Kono.

"We could guarantee total financial security in what are tough times fiscally and we already have four billion dollars in the bank."

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