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Valerie Jarrett to Vancouver: White House Olympic, ParaOlympics and Youth Sports chief enlisting athletes in anti-childhood obesity drive

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WASHINGTON--Vice President Biden, flying to Vancouver Friday for the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympics, will headline a pre-games rally for TEAM USA at the Canada Hockey Palace. President Obama, who will not be at the Olympics, taped a greeting for the U.S. athletes, telling them the Obama family--and their dog-- will be cheering them on from the White House.

"Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo and I can't wait to follow your journeys," Obama said in a video obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times

The Obama White House made an all-out effort last year to win the 2016 Olympic summer games for the U.S., promoting Chicago's bid with the President and First Lady, flying to Copenhagen to make the pitch for their hometown, only to have the city surprisingly cut in the first round of International Olympic Committee voting.

The legacy of the Chicago Olympic drive was the creation in the Obama White House of the office of Olympic and Para Olympic Youth Sport, headed by Senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, who is a member of the U.S. delegation traveling to Vancouver for the opening ceremonies.

Jarrett told me one of her goals in Vancouver meeting the U.S. Olympians and enlisting them to help in First Lady Michelle Obama's newly launched drive against childhood obesity.

"One of the many efforts we are engaged in with the athletes is encouraging nutrition and exercise, so it fits in very well with the First Lady's initiative. We have also been working over the course of the year getting athletes, professional sporting teams more involved in voluntarism," Jarrett said.

Many heads of state will be traveling to Canada for the games. Jarrett said no one should read much into Obama not making the trip to Vancouver.

"He has a pretty full plate right now, as you could expect. And the Vice President really wanted to go and this was important to him and so the president asked him to lead the delegation. I don't need to tell you just what a tough time this is right now," Jarrett said.

After the Copenhagen disaster, Jarrett said Obama taped a video on his return from Denmark in order for the U.S. athletes training for the Olympics and ParaOlympics to know "we're behind them," whether the games are in Vancouver or Brazil. Rio de Janeiro beat Chicago's bid to be the 2016 host city.

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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 February 12, 2010 7:18 AM.

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