- The Washington Times - Friday, September 11, 2009

WASHINGTON — First lady Michelle Obama will carry the torch of U.S. lobbying for Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, traveling to Denmark next month to make the case to Olympic officials.

Mrs. Obama said Friday that she takes on the task to boost her hometown “with great pride.”

“There is no doubt in my mind that Chicago would offer the world a fantastic setting for these historic games and I hope that the Olympic torch will have the chance to burn brightly in my hometown,” she said in a statement.

Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama’s top advisers who also is from Chicago and has been active in the city’s years of efforts to be chosen, also will attend the Oct. 2 International Olympic Committee meeting in Copenhagen. The IOC is announcing after that meeting its choice for host city from among Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo.

President Barack Obama has made winning the bid for his hometown is a priority.

In June, the White House announced creation of a new White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic and Youth Sport, which is hosting an event Wednesday at the White House with Olympic athletes.

In July, Barack Obama also taped an appeal to support Chicago’s bid when International Olympic officials met in Abuja, Nigeria.

It is common for heads of state to attend the IOC’s decision meetings to improve their country’s chances of being chosen. But the president told IOC President Jacques Rogge on Friday that the health care debate will keep him in Washington, even while he will continue to work to support Chicago’s bid.

Michelle Obama, however, brings not-inconsiderable star power and international popularity to the effort.

She was raised on the South Side of Chicago, not far from the suggested locations for the Games. As first lady, she has highlighted opening doors for underserved communities, particularly young people. She said this fits with the city’s pledge to encourage the involvement of children in the Games, if it hosts, through the distribution of over 500,000 tickets to local youth.

At the Wednesday event, the athletes will first visit local schools and then join the Obamas at the White House. The event is aimed both at showcasing U.S. talent and highlighting the administration’s commitment to giving children the tools to succeed in life, including access to sports and exercise.

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