Oprah Winfrey to join Chicago's Olympic bid team in Denmark
BY LISA DONOVAN AND FRAN SPIELMAN
Chicago Sun-Times Olympics and City Hall Reporters
CHICAGO--Oprah Winfrey will join Chicago's Olympic bid team in Denmark next week -- a final lap in the competition to win the 2016 Games, the Sun-Times has learned.
Rumors have been swirling about whether the talk-show host would be in Copenhagen for the city's final pitch for the Games, and Oprah has said she'd be there if Chicago needs her.
Well, they need her, sources say.
So in the days leading up to the Oct. 2 pitch -- followed by the International Olympic Committee's selection of a host city -- Oprah will be called on to be part ambassador, part lobbyist, sources confirm.
That means she'll be attending dinners, cocktail parties and other gatherings with the 106-member IOC delegation.
She isn't expected, however, to take the stage when first lady Michelle Obama, Mayor Daley, Chicago 2016 bid CEO Patrick Ryan and others give a last, technical bid presentation before the Olympics' governing body.
A spokesperson for Winfrey couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
And Chicago 2016 wouldn't immediately confirm she's going.
"She said she'll be there if we need her but nothing is confirmed at this point," said Chicago 2016 spokesman Patrick Sandusky. "We are thankful for all the support she has given the bid."
Oprah has been a cheerleader for Chicago in general and the city's 2016 Olympic bid in particular throughout Daley's three-year Olympic quest.
She showcased Chicago's Olympic bid during her 24th season premiere that closed down a chunk of Michigan Ave. for 2 1/2 days and kicked off her 23rd season by welcoming more than 100 Team USA athletes back from the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing.
Oprah also attended a dinner for the International Olympic Committee's site evaluation committee at the Art Institute's new Modern Wing. When she saw a group of protesters outside, she was quoted as saying, "I don't know what's wrong with these people."
That's apparently why the mayor's office was thrilled -- but not surprised -- to hear that Oprah had decided to join the Chicago delegation in Copenhagen.
"She's been a partner with us on this endeavor for a long time. So, it makes sense that she would see it through to the end -- or perhaps the beginning," said mayoral press secretary Jacquelyn Heard.
"If she has decided to make the trip, it obviously makes our bid that much stronger. Is there a person alive who doesn't know and respect Oprah? It's a huge boost. She's a person who enjoys international acclaim. There's only a handful of people who can say that."