Obama love flows for Chicago at 2016 Games vote

US President Barack Obama let his love for Chicago flow in a bid to break the hearts of rival bid cities Rio, Tokyo and Madrid at Friday’s vote to choose the 2016 Olympic host.

Obama’s emotional plea was followed by a sober but strong presentation from Japan’s new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama who said a Tokyo event would build bridges with the world and ensure a green future.

And Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva told the 100 International Olympic Committee (IOC) members that Rio de Janeiro was ready.

The IOC opened the meeting early Friday hearing the cases led by government leaders and kings to win the right to stage the Games.

Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero were due to wrap up the presentations for Madrid.

Odds-on favourite Chicago was first up and Obama was introduced to the podium by his wife to whom he gave a tender kiss.

“The reason I chose to settle in Chicago 25 years ago is not just because I met that lady who just spoke but because I fell in love with it.

“I never really had any roots until I came to Chicago and discovered this most American of cities ... It is a rich tapestry of neighbourhoods. If you choose us we walk this path together,” he said.

“Chicago is a place where unity is on colourful display, where perfect strangers become fast friends—a city that works.

Michelle Obama said the Games was vital to diplomatic strategy.

“We would use these Games as a vehicle for reaching out to the world.
It would usher in a new era of international engagement,” she said

Obama said Chicago—following Atlanta as the last US city to host the Summer Olympics in 1996—would allow America to restore its tainted image, “to show America at its best ... that the USA is open to the world.

“Over the past few years the fundamental truth of the United States has been lost. The Olympic Games could restore it.”

Tokyo, the only one of the four to have previously hosted the Games, offered a vision of change through sport.

The capital’s governor, 77-year-old award winning novelist, Shintaro Ishihara, had earlier warned that the 2016 Olympics could be one of the last because of the parlous state of the environment.

“I saw in 1964 [when Tokyo last hosted the Games] how sport transformed Japan,” Ishihara told the IOC.

“50 years later I still believe in sport’s power to change things for the better.

“The youth of today faces great challenges and that is why for our grandchildren’s hopes, courage and healthy future we must address the problem of the environment,” said the former transport minister.

Bid leader Doctor Ichiro Kono tried to assure IOC members that the Japanese had plenty of spirit.

“You’ve encouraged us to show more passion but the Japanese are not good at showing our emotions,” said Kono.

“Our words may be few but they are full of spirit,” added Kono, who was chief medical officer at three Olympics for the Japanese team.

Prime Minister Hatoyama said the Games were the ideal vehicle to promote the Japanese characteristic of fraternity.

“The fraternity of the Japanese has been always my philosophy and through that building bridges with the world,” the 62-year-old said.

“It would be a great honour and privilege for the Japanese people to host the Olympics again. To savour together the image of the Olympic Games.

The Tokyo team left a symbol of youth—15-year-old gymnast Resa Mishina—to pack a punch.

“Please choose a city that is dedicated to improving the environment and saving the planet so young children have a future,” Mishina said.

For Brazil, Lula laid out his own beliefs.

“I honestly believe it is Brazil’s time. Brazil is the only one of the top ten economies in the world not to have hosted the Olympics.

“For us it would be an unparalled opportunity, a boost to the self esteem of Brazilians—the Olympics will consolidate recent achievements and inspire new ones.

“Give us this chance and you won’t regret it,” he said

Rio bid president Carlos Nuzman, watched by football legend Pele told the IOC: “Today Brazil is uniquely placed to meet needs and to work together for a brighter future—yes Brazil is ready, Rio is ready, ready to host the Games of celebration and transformation.”

He then pointed to a map of past Olympic venues.

“You see there were 30 Games in Europe, five in Asia, two in Oceania, eight in the United States.

“Now we want to bring the Games to South America for the first time and open the new door to a new continent.”

Rio are hoping it will be third time lucky after failed bid attempts in 2004 and 2012.—AFP

Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin

Pirate Irwin is a journalist with Agence France Presse , who has been based in Paris for 16 years having initially arrived for just a six month summer stay. Born in Ireland in 1965 and educated at Eton and Institute for Foreign Students in Tours after missing out on University by a large margin. His first name is a gift from his grandfather inspired by Radio Caroline but not appreciated by a Roman Catholic priest at christening.  Read more from Pirate Irwin

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