Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Is Oprah an adequate substitute for Obama in touting Chicago Olympics bid?

There is a part of me that has never understood why the presence of certain people should have an influence on the outcome of events.

Why should it matter whether or not Barack Obama physically shows up in Copenhagen next month when the International Olympic Committee makes public its decision on where the summer Olympic Games are held in 2016?

DO WE REALLY believe the IOC is so lame-brained that they will go “ga ga” at the mere sight of Barack? Or are they so venal as to demand that a chief executive take time out of his schedule to “kiss the ring,” so to speak, of the president?

The logical part of my mind thinks it ought to be irrelevant to the process of picking a site for an Olympic games to be held seven years from now what Obama chooses to do with his public schedule on Oct. 2, 2009.

Yet already, we’re getting the Olympics prognosticators trying to make something out of the fact that Obama is not in Europe these days sucking up to IOC officials. He sent his wife, instead.

Personally, I’d find some face time with Michelle Obama to be more enjoyable than the president. For all I know, many IOC members may feel the same way.

YET ALREADY WE’RE getting the speculation that strikes me as being over the top.

Is Obama’s refusal to go to the IOC in recent days evidence that maybe he knows something to the effect that Chicago’s bid for the Olympics in ’16 is doomed? So his refusal to go is a way of distancing himself from the whole effort.

After all, Obama has publicly said he’d enjoy being president at a time when the Olympics came not only to his home nation, but to his home city – literally just a few blocks from that mini-mansion in the area where the Kenwood and Hyde Park neighborhoods converge.

Would it be a blot on his legacy if the IOC chose some place other than Chicago for 2016? Or could it be that the IOC is in awe of the idea of a South American Olympics – making Rio de Janeiro their favorite site?

PERSONALLY, I WOULD think it would be more of a blot on his legacy if he let Michelle Obama’s presence in Europe these days be seen as the reason for the Olympics not coming to Chicago.

Or could the pundits who predict that Obama will make a last-minute change in his schedule so he can be on hand Oct. 2 in Copenhagen. The chance to be seen at the moment of what could be one of Chicago’s greatest glories would be too much for Obama to resist.

There also are those people who think Obama will find a substitute to pitch Chicago – and some of that speculation is centering on the woman whom some like to credit with giving us the concept of Barack Obama as a U.S. president to begin with.

Will we get Oprah Winfrey trying to use her charm to sway the IOC to bring the Olympic games to the city where her production company and famed television talk show are based (even though she hasn’t really lived among us in years)?

WINFREY HERSELF MADE the comment to the Chicago Tribune, which had a reporter-type person in Toronto to cover the opening of “Precious,” a film of which she is an executive producer.

“If I feel I can be useful there, then that’s what I will do,” she told the newspaper. Of course, she also told other reporter-types that she does not see herself as needing to get politically involved, saying she thinks helping to get Obama elected was significant enough.

So who knows what she will actually do? A live version of the “Oprah Winfrey Show” from Copenhagen on Oct. 2? It makes as much sense as anything else that will be proposed in coming weeks.

I suppose in the superficial sense of needing a “big name” in Copenhagen, “Oprah” could substitute for “Obama” in terms of trying to draw attention to the merits of holding an Olympic games in the United States and in Chicago specifically.

BUT WHY SHOULD it really matter which “big name” is on hand to hear the announcement, since I’m sure that the officials from Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Madrid will come up with names their consider equally big.

Does Chicago’s merits to host an international spectacle really decline significantly just because Obama chooses to not have Air Force One take him to Copenhagen?

It almost makes me wonder if the Chicago 2016 officials did a weak job on promoting Chicago’s merits for hosting such an event, if so much attention is being paid on whether or not Obama will show up – or whether he gets an adequate substitute.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Of course Chicago 2016 would like to have Oprah Winfrey (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-oprah-chicago-olympics-14-sep14,0,4563629.story) on board in support of their work.

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