Updated with official announcement at 2:54 p.m. eastern....
WASHINGTON--President Obama just phoned Mayor Daley to tell him he may not be able to travel to Copenhagen next month to help make the final pitch for Chicago to win the 2016 Olympic summer games because of his pending fight to pass health care legislation. First Lady Michelle Obama will lead the U.S. delegation, the Sun-Times has learned.
I'm told the President told the mayor he is very committed, he will continue to press the case and Michelle Obama will lead the U.S. Olympic Committee delegation's bid for the Chicago 2016 games. Obama can't, at this moment, commit to going because he cannot say where the health care issue will be in the first week of October.
This puts pressure on Mrs. Obama to deliver if she indeed ends up filling in for the president. She will be competing with the heads of state of Brazil, Japan and Spain who are going to Denmark on a high stakes sales call to secure the games for Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo or Madrid.
Chicago boosters were hoping that the U.S. Olympic Committee's Chicago bid would be bolstered by Obama because of the enormous international popularity of the president.
The International Olympic Committee meets in Copenhagen on Oct. 2 where the 100-plus members vote on the 2016 host city. White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett--who was part of the Chicago 2016 Committee before joining the Obama administration--is also going to Copenhagen.
The Obamas will host an event at the White House on Sept. 16 with Olympic and paralympic athletes in order to help promote landing the games in their home town.
Below, official White House announcement...
FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA TO REPRESENT THE UNITED STATES IN COPENHAGEN
MRS. OBAMA TO LEAD EFFORT IN SUPPORT OF 2016 CHICAGO OLYMPIC BID
The White House announced today that First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, in support of Chicago's historic bid for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. On October 2, 2009, Mrs. Obama will attend the 121st International Olympic Committee Session at the Bella Center - Copenhagen Congress Center. It is here that the host of the 2016 Summer Olympics will be selected from the remaining four candidate cities: Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. President Obama informed IOC President Count Jacques Rogge today that the fight to pass health insurance reform keeps him from committing at this time to travel to Copenhagen on October 2, but he will continue to work to support Chicago's bid along with the First Lady and Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the President, who will accompany the First Lady to Copenhagen.
"One of the great honors I have as First Lady is to represent America around the world and it is with great pride that I will go to Copenhagen to make the case for the United States to host the 2016 Olympics," said Mrs. Obama. "There is no doubt in my mind that Chicago would offer the world a fantastic setting for these historic games and I hope that the Olympic torch will have the chance to burn brightly in my hometown."
Mrs. Obama was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, not far from the suggested locations for the Games. In her role as First Lady, Mrs. Obama has been committed to bridging the gap between the White House and underserved communities around DC and across the country - opening the doors of the White House and bringing new opportunities to young people. Visiting Copenhagen is an opportunity for the First Lady to carry this commitment to the international stage.
"As President Obama has said, hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Chicago would be a valuable opportunity for our nation to welcome the world to our shores, and strengthen our friendships across the globe," said Valerie Jarrett. "I know that it would serve as a beacon of hope and lift the aspirations of so many young people in Chicago, in America and across the world even higher."
Chicago's diverse communities and vibrant neighborhoods, paired with a scenic waterfront, soaring architecture, and innovative technologies and infrastructure would make the city a perfect stage for the 2016 Olympics. The city's pledge to encourage the involvement of children through the distribution of over 500,000 tickets to local youth and its commitment to the environment through the Blue Green initiative, reinforce Mrs. Obama's belief that the city of Chicago would be the ideal host for these Olympic Games.
The President and First Lady will be hosting an event with the White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport and Chicago 2016 on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 to help promote Chicago's bid for the Olympics, as well as helping promote our commitment to healthy living and youth sport. There will be Olympic athletes and Paralympic athletes in attendance as well. This event will help highlight the Obama administration's commitment to giving our nation's children every possible tool they need to grow, learn and succeed in life. A key part of this is increasing access to healthy, constructive activities like sports for our nation's children. The Olympic athletes will be visiting local schools in the morning and then joining the President and First Lady at the White House in the afternoon. More details will be released in the coming days.