VIPs converge on Copenhagen ahead of IOC vote

Spain’s king, Brazil’s president and US First Lady Michelle Obama were converging on Wednesday on the Danish capital for a final push to get the International Olympic Committee to award the 2016 Games to their cities.

In the last 48 hours before Friday’s IOC vote and its uncertain outcome, lobbying efforts were shifting into top gear.

The contest between front-runners Chicago and Rio de Janeiro is thought to be very close, so personal appeals to IOC members from Mrs Obama and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva could
prove decisive.

The other two bidding cities, Madrid and Tokyo, are thought to be trailing but have not given up. King Juan Carlos was arriving on Wednesday in Copenhagen to bolster the Spanish capital’s bid.

Japan’s new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, is also awaited although the Tokyo bid committee isn’t yet saying when he will arrive.

Mrs Obama planned to get right to work on trying to sway the vote Chicago’s way. Her schedule had her meeting with IOC members within hours of her arrival on Wednesday morning.

Silva arrives in the afternoon and is also expected to meet with IOC members.

IOC votes—by secret ballot over several rounds—can be highly unpredictable.
Aside from the paramount questions of whether bidding cities’ Olympic plans are technically and financially feasible, emotion, sentiment, geography, politics, self-interest and other factors also play a role.

Last-minute and high-powered lobbying can be important—as then-prime minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, proved when London was vying for the 2012 Olympics. Blair traveled to Singapore ahead of the vote and spent two days lobbying IOC members, inviting them to his hotel suite for one-on-one meetings.

Chicago has torn a leaf from Blair’s playbook: Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett met with him last week to solicit his advice and get tips on navigating the IOC voting process.

Ultimately, the biggest choice for the IOC’s 106 members may be deciding what statement they want to send the world.

Giving the Olympics to South America for the first time would be bold and, Rio argues, even transformational. IOC members acknowledge the appeal of taking the games to unchartered territory. Rio’s plans are technically strong, too.

“Policy wise, the IOC has to decide if we’re ready to go to a new continent,” longtime IOC member Dick Pound said recently.

“That’s the biggest paradigm shift. Is the time right?”
Sending the games to Chicago, on the other hand, could perhaps prove more lucrative and safe. It is possible that in these precarious times of global recession, IOC members will find the familiarity of the United States—which last held the Olympics in
1996 in Atlanta—to be comforting.

Chicago also has emotional pull in the shape of President Barack Obama. Should he win a second term in office, a Chicago Games in 2016 could offer a celebratory and spectacular backdrop for his
final year as the first black US president.

Obama is coming in person to Copenhagen to try to secure the games for his adopted hometown. He will be here for a few hours on Friday—elevating the games to an issue of national importance but also exposing him to political risks.

The city receiving the fewest votes will be eliminated after each round on Friday until one candidate secures a majority. The vote is expected to go the maximum three rounds.

Some members tend to vote out of sympathy in the first round, which can produce some surprises. The key to victory is picking up votes from the cities which go out.

If Tokyo were to go out in the first round, it is believed many of its votes would go to Chicago. If Madrid goes out, the consensus is they would go to Rio. - Sapa-AP

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