COPENHAGEN (CBS) ― President Barack Obama touted the virtues of his adopted hometown of Chicago early Friday in the final pitch for the 2016 Olympic Games, calling Chicago's hardworking ethic the "essence of the Olympic spirit."
"We look forward to welcoming the world to the shores of Lake Michigan, and the heartland of our nation, in 2016," Obama said.
Obama's 11th-hour pitch followed days of furious lobbying for the bid, in a contest that many see as the closest in the history of the modern Games. Experts believe Chicago and Rio de Janeiro are tightly locked as the front-runners, with Madrid and Tokyo trailing. However, the outcome of the IOC vote, which will be announced at 11:57 a.m. Chicago time, is anybody's guess.
CBS 2's Jay Levine reports from Copenhagen that, according to longtime observers, Rio's presentation was the strongest of the four.
Chicago did well, but it was far from a home run. Obama was mobbed by IOC delegates during his visit, which may or may not bode well for Chicago. IOC delegates place a premium on the candidate's final pitches before beginning their vote later this morning.
But it may have been Michelle Obama, who has been on the ground on Copenhagen for the past several days, who made the biggest impression on the IOC, observers said.
"She's the one who convinced the IOC members that Chicago is the best city'' for the Olympics, said Ed Hula, of aroundtherings.com.
Obama said growing up in Hawaii and living in Indonesia, he was without roots in a place, culture or ethnic group. But when he came to Chicago, he found people of every race, gender and background working together.
"I came to discover that Chicago is that most American of American cities, but one where citizens from more than 130 nations inhabit a rich tapestry" of neighborhoods, Obama said.
The president described Chicago as a place of diversity and warmth.
"Chicago is a place where we strive to celebrate what makes us different just as we celebrate what we have in common," he said. "It's a place where our unity is on colorful display ... It's a city that works from its first World's Fair more than a century ago to the World Cup we hosted in the nineties, we know how to put on big events."
Obama said Chicagoans' core belief is that "with hard work and dedication we can make it if we try. That's not just the American dream. That's the Olympic spirit. That's the essence of the Olympic spirit, and that's why we want them in Chicago."
"There is nothing I would like more than to step just a few blocks from our family's home with Michelle and our two girls, and welcome the world back into our neighborhood," Obama said.
President Obama was the last speaker for the presentation.
Touting Chicago as an "Olympic playground," the presentation began with a video set to the classic song "Sweet Home Chicago," with shots of Chicago's parks and other attractions, interspersed with Buddy Guy playing guitar.
U.S. Olympic Committee President Larry Probst then began speaking, followed by Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Daley emphasized the city's efforts to make the city more environmentally friendly and accessible for the disabled, and pointed out that the city was the home of Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe, two African-Americans who went to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin when they did not have equal rights in their own country.
"We want to continue to transform our city, and the games will be a catalyst to achieve this goal," the mayor said.
Daley said Chicagoans are firmly behind the Olympics.
"If you award us the Games, we will be your best partners, because the people of Chicago are passionate, honest and hardworking," Daley said. "We want to share our city with the world."
Afterward, another video aired with statements in support of the Olympics from schoolchildren and other everyday Chicagoans.
First Lady Michelle Obama talked about her youth in Chicago, growing up in a working class neighborhood on the city's South Side not far from Washington Park, where the Olympic stadium would be erected.
She talked about her father, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her early 30s, but taught her the value of sport and "the fundamental rules of the game" of honor and dignity.
She said she hoped a Chicago Olympics would "show every child, regardless of wealth, or gender, or race, or physical ability, there is a sport and a place for them too."
Following a question-and-answer session that dealt with issues about the Olympic Village plans, public safety and financing of the Games, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge presented President Obama with a diploma presenting the city's Olympic candidacy.
After the Obamas' comments, the U.S. delegation fielded questions from committee members, and at one point the president jumped in. He said he envisioned that the Chicago games would allow the United States to restore its image as a place that, at its best, is "open to the world."
He emphasized that the White House and the State Department would put their full weight behind making sure international visitors "feel welcome and will come away with the sense of the incredible diversity of the American people." And Americans, he said, will be reminded of their links to the rest of the world.
At a news conference afterward, Mayor Daley called the pitch a success.
"I think when we were up there, it wasn't just the words we were saying. It was the passion and the emotion that every speaker had in our presentation," Daley said. "There is a story to be told, and they all told the story in a very passionate; in a very personal way, and it was a very emotional way."
After the presentation, President Obama told CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine that he was happy with the presentation, and joked that the only problem was that he had to follow the First Lady.
Afterward, he met with the Queen of Denmark.
He also called a meeting with Gen. Stanley McChrystal aboard Air Force One. He met with his War Counsel on Thursday, and asked the general to meet him in Copenhagen on Friday regarding the war in Afghanistan.
Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid followed with their presentations. At 9 a.m., the IOC began its evaluation report. Voting begins at 10:10 a.m.
Originally, Obama had indicated that he would be staying in Washington and attending to health care reform legislation, and would instead let Michelle Obama lead the final pitch. But last week, he announced he would be going to make a personal pitch.
Mayor Daley and other backers of the Chicago 2016 bid hope the trip will be sufficient to give Obama's adopted home town the advantage it needs to win the close, four-way race to become the host city of the 2016 Summer Games.
Aides said the president only made the decision to make an overnight flight to Copenhagen after determining that a short trip wouldn't take away from his work on health care.
But the compressed time frame did not shield Obama from criticism that he shouldn't be hopscotching to Europe in Air Force One when there were so many pressing issues to deal with in the U.S. such as health care, the war in Afghanistan and the financial meltdown.
"The problems we have here at home affect all Americans, and that's where his attention ought to be," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Wednesday.
Though Rogge has said heads of state aren't required to attend the IOC meeting, recent votes indicate their presence can make a difference.
During the 2005 IOC meeting in Singapore, then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair successfully lobbied members on behalf of London's bid for the 2012 Summer Games. Two years later, Vladimir Putin, then president of Russia, helped secure the 2014 Winter Games for Sochi on Russia's Black Sea coast.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine, CBS News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.http://cbs2chicago.com/topstories/obama.arrives.copenhagen.2.1222736.html