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Oprah, Michelle Obama: The lobby drive for Chicago Olympics


WASHINGTON -- Oprah Winfrey and first lady Michelle Obama are global brands.

And these two world-famous women will try to translate their personal appeal into Olympic votes for Chicago as they buttonhole targeted members of the International Olympic Committee for one-on-one lobbying this week in Copenhagen in advance of the Oct. 2 vote to choose a host city for the 2016 Summer Games.

At this stage of Chicago's long quest for the Olympics, the only thing that matters is finding more than 50 people from the 106-member IOC to vote for Chicago over Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro.

The politics in this campaign are very "retail'' -- face-to-face -- at this point.

Mrs. Obama and Valerie Jarrett, the White House senior adviser overseeing the Olympic push for the Obama administration, arrive Wednesday in Copenhagen with lobbying lists in hand. Winfrey also will arrive as early as Wednesday.

When Winfrey lands in Copenhagen, "Oprah will have a full schedule from the time she hits the ground as well," Jarrett told the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday.

"She is an international icon, widely respected throughout the world, and her presence and her willingness to put her reputation behind Chicago -- a city she both calls home and loves and knows so well -- I think will have a very significant impact on the IOC," Jarrett said.

By now, Chicago 2016 organizers have done their homework and have zeroed in on the concerns of the IOC members they have identified as undecided and who might be swayed by meeting with an official from the Obama administration.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will have his lobby list. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will have his, too -- all to affirm the federal commitment to the Chicago Games. They will be in Copenhagen because "transportation is very important to the IOC, as is the legacy and education of how youth are involved in sport," Jarrett said.

"We don't take a single vote for granted. We will be tailoring our remarks to showcase why we think our city should be the winning city.''

Mrs. Obama will be a central figure in the final presentation Chicago will make to the IOC, a 45-minute sales pitch that will be the city's closing argument. Mrs. Obama will deliver a speech, but the program will be adjusted if President Obama attends.

Jarrett said she has been "working hard preparing the first lady for her presentation.'' Jarrett called Mrs. Obama's speech a "deeply, deeply personal appeal'' to the IOC.

The president and first lady also did some lobbying of "key people'' at the United Nations meeting in New York and the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.

"They did everything that they were asked to do," said Jarrett.


i got it, as long as ms. scarlet needs nanny, the world will dig oprah and val...but then, 'gone with the wind' was an american phenom. that won't roll barely does here....stay tuned, will it be daley as mr. rhett on the return to chi-town who drops the 'frankly my dear...' line? hummmm...both atlanta and chi burned, yes? and atlana got 'de O-lympic!!

How did the First Lady and Oprah arrive in Copenhagen?
Did the U.S. taxpayers pay for the trip, or did they fly on Oprah's plane?

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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 27, 2009 7:44 AM.

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