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Chicago's Olympic lobbying blitz; Valerie Jarrett meets with Tony Blair


Valerie Jarrett meets with Tony Blair over Chicago's 2016 Olympics pitch

Rep. Bobby Rush's "call list" to African ambassadors to get out the IOC vote for Chicago

WASHINGTON -- White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, overseeing the Obama administration's drive to land the 2016 Olympic Games, met Tuesday with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in New York, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned. Jarrett's huddle with Blair comes as international lobbying intensifies in advance of the Oct. 2 vote in Copenhagen and Chicago organizers are working on their home stretch strategy.

Blair's personal lobbying with the International Olympic Committee in Singapore in 2005 is credited with helping London win the 2012 Games. First lady Michelle Obama -- and possibly President Obama -- will be in Copenhagen to be part of Chicago's final sales pitch.

It's down to Olympics election math as Chicago competes with Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro.

There are 106 IOC members from around the globe. A majority vote determines the host city. However, it could take more than one round of voting to yield a majority. IOC members from countries with bidding cities can't vote until their city is eliminated. Out of the 106 IOC members, then, it could take about 50 to win.

On Tuesday,, an outlet specializing in Olympics coverage, was reporting that an IOC member from the Rio de Janeiro 2016 committee was claiming to have 20 votes locked in from IOC members.

The IOC members who are perceived as undecided are the subject of targeted lobbying, including a Sept. 10 letter from Obama obtained by the Sun-Times.

Obama wrote, "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. We have already
established a White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport to serve the
Games, and you can count on our government to support Chicago's quest to host an
unforgettable event and strengthen the Olympic Movement."

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) has been through a lot of election days, and he is approaching this next big one with his call list in hand. When Rush hits the phone to get out the vote for Chicago, his targets are more than a dozen African ambassadors representing nations with, collectively, 15 IOC members.

Atlanta won the 1996 Olympic summer games, Rush said, because they "went out of their way to lobby these African nations, ask for their votes and they were successful. They are really going to be key to Chicago winning."

A reception for African officials in Washington was held last Thursday at the Capitol -- and attended by Jarrett and Chicago 2016 president Lori Healey. While IOC members are not members of their governments -- they are supposed to represent the Olympic movement, not their nations -- direct and indirect outreach doesn't hurt.

I'm told geographic alliances aren't what they used to be. A South American IOC member may care more about Madrid than Rio. Even IOC members from the same country could be in different camps.

But let's go over the geography.

The African nations, with 15 members from the continent, have no geographical horse in this race; neither does "Oceania" -- New Zealand, Australia and Fiji -- with 5 members.

Europe, with 47, has the biggest contingent of IOC members. The Americas would be the next biggest bloc at 18, but Chicago and Rio are both in the running. Asian countries have 22 IOC members.

As in any contest, Rush said, the job is to "Identify your vote. Work your vote and get your votes on election day."


Nice to see that another one of our wonderful Washington politicians, Rep. Rush, is spending his time lobbying African nations for their Olympics votes. I guess Rep. Rush doesn't have anything better to do. Although, come to think of it, Rep. Rush wasting his, and our, time lobbying for the Olympics is probably better than him spending time doing his actuall legislative duties, a job he has proven time and time again to be completely incapable of. We'd get a more qualified, harder working, intelligent representative if we held a lottery and just put the name of everyone in the state in the hat.

Indeed. Way past time for him to speech therapy as well.

Indeed. Way past time for him to speech therapy as well.

There is no reason why the US wouldn't be second choice for any voter. The only reasons why Rio is in the running is because the Olympics have never been held in South America and because Brazilian President da Silva cannot run for a third term in 2010 and wants to run again in 2014 using the 2016 Olympics as the cornerstone of his campaign. However, Brazil is the only one of thirteen South American countries which speaks Portuguese, and many of the ten countries which have Spanish as their official languauge might prefer Buenos Aires in 2020.

Also, Rio is not anywhere as culturally advanced as Chicago or Buenos Aires, and although its population is more than twice Chicago's, its murder rate is four times Chicago's, to say nothing of the petty crime which is pervasive (I've been to Rio four times, three times on business - there will not be a fourth).

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on September 23, 2009 5:38 AM.

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