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  • Could Obama put Chicago over top for 2016 Olympics?


    Can a charismatic American president compensate for a shakeup in U.S. Olympic Committee leadership?

    It might come down to that when International Olympic Committee members vote Oct. 2 in Copenhagen, Denmark, on the site of the 2016 Olympic Games.

    Chicago is bidding against three other finalists -- Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro. Ireland's Patrick Hickey, president of the European Olympic Committee and an IOC member, has said President Barack Obama could swing the vote for Chicago.

    It's a "perfect confluence of factors," according to Ed Hula of Around the Rings, a publication that covers the business of the Olympics.

    President Obama was an Illinois senator from Chicago. He could have the impact that Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain did when London was awarded the 2012 Olympics. The only other leader with the personality to influence the IOC is Brazilian president Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva, according to Hula.

    "He may be charming, but he doesn't speak English," Hula said.

    Hula said the race for 2016 is close, but Chicago retains a lead. Obama is a big gun "who you really only get a chance to fire once," Hula said. So the question for Chicago organizers is how best to employ the president.

    "I guess there's a possibility that he may not even be needed to come," Hula said. "We'll see how the race takes shape over the final four months there."

    Changes in the USOC have cast doubt on Chicago's ability to land the Olympics. A poorly coordinated effort hurt New York's chances for 2012. And the USOC needs another Olympics in the United States to raise revenues.

    The USOC has a new chairman, Larry Probst, and a new CEO, Stephanie Streeter. The organization is seeking a replacement for communications chief Darryl Seibel, who knew the international sports landscape.

    "For the U.S. bid, it doesn't help to have a team of unknowns," Hula said. "That said, I'm not sure it's a deal-breaker for Chicago."

    Rio de Janeiro has sentimental appeal because no South American city has held an Olympics. But soccer's World Cup is in Brazil in 2014, and there might be reluctance to send an Olympics there two years later.