Republican Mitt Romney on Monday praised President Obama’s decision to travel to Copenhagen this week to make the case that Chicago should host the 2016 Summer Olympics, saying the president’s personal appeal is likely to ensure the city lands the games.
Until this week, Mr. Obama had indicated he would not be able to make the trip because he was tied down in negotiations over his health care proposal.
“I think his presence makes it almost certain that Chicago will win the bid,” said Mr. Romney, who oversaw the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. “I think we could have easily lost the bid” had the president not gone to make the case for Chicago in person.
Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for president last year, said he believes that while Mr. Obama may be risking some political capital on the international stage by making the appeal in person, the move is in the country’s best interest.
Mr. Obama could have faced a far more significant political backlash had he declined to make the trip and Chicago then lost out to one of the three other cities — Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro — in the competition for the 2016 games, Mr. Romney said.
Members of the International Olympic Committee are scheduled to announce their decision Friday.
Mr. Romney said that a personal appeal from the president conveys an important message to the board members as they are preparing to cast their secret ballots.
“They recognize that if the president makes a personal appearance, there is an implicit assurance by the United States that these games will be successful,” Mr. Romney said.
Officials who are overseeing Chicago’s bid expressed relief and satisfaction Monday with the president’s decision to break away from his efforts to win passage of health care legislation in order to make a personal pitch for the games.
“Who better to share with members of the International Olympic Committee the commitment and enthusiasm Chicago has for the Olympic and Paralympic Movement than the President and First Lady,” said Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in a statement.
“There is no greater expression of the support our bid enjoys, from the highest levels of government and throughout our country, than to have President Obama join us in Copenhagen for the pinnacle moment in our bid,” Chicago 2016 Chairman and CEO Patrick G. Ryan said.
First lady Michelle Obama was scheduled to be the main U.S. representative to the IOC. The president now will accompany Mrs. Obama, and the two will both participate in the American presentation on Friday before a final decision is announced. For him, it will be a short trip. He will depart Thursday evening and return to Washington on Friday afternoon.
In addition to the president, first lady and Mr. Daley, other senior governmental officials in the Chicago 2016 delegation include White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.
While in Denmark, Mr. Obama will meet with Queen Margrethe II and her consort, Prince Henrik, as well as Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.