Opinion: Michelle Obama’s Chicago Olympics pep rally
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Are you ready? Well, you better be
The Big Gun has arrived.
Michelle Obama, the First Cheerleader in Chief, is in Copenhagen now working the International Olympic Committee to pick Chicago and her Southside neighborhood for the 2016 summer games.
Until recently, chiefs of state or their spouses did not normally lobby the IOC, which votes Friday among Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Tokyo and the windy midwestern city named for a smelly Indian onion that has a stunning lakefront and ample parking on numerous freeways.
It’s all very exciting if you’re into political handshaking and planning what you’ll be doing about seven years from now. Mrs. Obama has conferred with former British prime minister Tony Blair about how he successfully lobbied committee members for London and 2012 a while back. Russia’s former KGB chief Vladimir Putin somehow succeeded in telling IOC members to pick Sochi for 2014.
Obama’s husband will drop healthcare, war and everything else Thursday to fly overnight to....
...join her for a last-minute Friday photo op schmoozing Olympic voters along with Chicago boss, Mayor Richard M. Daley, who happens to be a Democrat like the president and a Southsider and allowed then-state senator Obama to exist on his turf politically-speaking.
Daley’s also delighted that his city has lived down its police storm trooper image from the riotous Democratic National Convention of 1968 (also on the South side), when his politically old-fashioned father, Richard J. Daley, presided over the mayor’s office with portly aplomb. Also a big stick. And lots of teargas.
According to Bloomberg News (see video below), Chicago is the favorite city to be picked right now, although a popular favorite is the first South American city.
The first lady was pulling out all the rhetorical stops in her remarks today, citing her children, her mother, the First Grandma, and even the family dog, Bo, who would participate in the Frisbee Olympics (Just kidding.) She talked about the sacrifice of going to Copenhagen for a few days.
O, by the way, Obama’s also called in another O, the biggest O of all, Oprah, the billionairess media celeb.
Obama says working to get the Olympics bid is like a political campaign. And it sure looks and sounds that way. They won the last one, not counting the healthcare public option.
-- Andrew Malcolm
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MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, everybody. So, as my husband would say, we are fired up and ready to go in here. (Applause.) It’s a good thing. Well, first let me begin by thanking my dear friend, my chit-chat buddy, Oprah Winfrey. She talks about me coming here without hesitation. This is a woman who’s got a pretty busy schedule – taping shows, traveling across the globe, a woman with a full plate. I think that folks out there should understand how Chicagoans, even those who weren’t born and raised here, feel a passion about the city, so much so that we dropped everything – dropped everything – to be a part of this team. So I want to give Ms. Winfrey a round of applause as well. (Applause.)
One reporter asked me in a press briefing, “So, what do you think Oprah adds to the team?” I said, “Oprah is Oprah.” (Laughter.) What more do you have to say? I said every single city who’s bidding wishes they had Oprah on their team, and we have her, and we are grateful that she is a part of this endeavor. (Applause.)
It is so nice to see so many familiar faces. I mean, we really do miss Chicago. We’ve made a wonderful home in D.C. The girls are great; Grandma is good. Bo is no longer a puppy; he’s a big dog now. (Laughter.) But it’s wonderful to reconnect to my hometown.
When I looked at the bid initially, I was overwhelmed by what a beautiful concept was presented. You know, everything about this bid....
... speaks to what the city has to offer. Having the Games right along that beautiful, glorious lakefront; using the existing park structure to ensure that we’re making the kinds of investments and we’ll have the kind of wonderful leave-behinds that will benefit the city over the long run; the notion that Olympic athletes who visit the city will live centrally, they’ll be 15 minutes from any competition site, that they’ll be able to walk, ride or bus to some of the greatest cultural offerings that this nation, that this world has to offer – it will be an athlete’s paradise in so many ways, and we will have it at a time in the city’s climate that will actually be nice. (Laughter.)
The lake won’t be frozen over.
So I am thrilled. I am proud of our bid, and I am proud of this team. And I have to ask you, are we ready to go with this, right? You ready to go? (Applause.)
This bid also means a lot to me personally because, as First Lady, as many of you know, I’ve made it a priority to bridge the gap between the White House and communities across D.C. and across the country. I’ve spent much of my first nine months trying to open the doors to the White House to kids who might not otherwise see themselves having access to these institutions, because that’s where I came from – communities like that where kids never dreamed that they could set foot in the White House, let alone live there.
So I’ve wanted to open the doors of the White House and bring new opportunities to so many young kids – kids living in the midst of power and prestige, fortune and fame, but never really seeing their connections to those institutions.
And Barack and I made a point of doing the same thing when we lived in Chicago – making the concerns of kids in all sorts of communities our own, because we have been on both sides of that bridge.
In so many ways, we have lived full lives on both sides of that bridge. And for me, this is one of the best reasons I can think of to bring the Olympics to our city.
We need all of our children to be exposed to the Olympic ideals that athletes from around the world represent, particularly this time in our nation’s history, where athletics is becoming more of a fleeting opportunity.
I remember watching the Olympics when I was little. I remember it to the T, some of those memories. And Nadia Comaneci is here, who – (applause) – and so many incredible Olympic athletes. But I remember, I told this story, when you scored that perfect 10, you bounced off the balance beam, off the parallel bars. I thought I could do that. (Laughter.) I didn’t know then that I would be 5’11”. (Laughter.)
But it was – it was an activity in our household when it was time for the Olympic Games, all of us gathered around the TV cheering on and being inspired by people who were doing things that were beyond belief. And I just think, wouldn’t it be great if that kind of spirit was happening right down the street in our community? Just think of that.
Kids and communities across the city, in Austin, kids who grew up in Cabrini, kids who live so far from the city. Now just imagine if all of that was happening right in their own backyard. That’s what I think about. (Applause.)
It does something to a kid when they can feel that energy and power up close and personal. And for some kids in our communities and our city, around the nation, around the world, they can never dream of being that close to such power and opportunity. So that’s what excites me most about bringing the Games to Chicago – the impact that it can have on the lives of our young people, and on our entire community.
And I know that’s what all of you have been working for for these past few months. As much of a sacrifice as people say this is for me or Oprah or the President to come for these few days, so many of you in this room have been working for years to bring this bid home, and you have put together a phenomenal set of ideas that, no matter what the outcome is, we should be proud of as a city. (Applause.)
So now is the time for us to pull it through, you know. As Barack and I have looked at this, this is like a campaign. (Laughter.) Just like Iowa. (Laughter.) You got to – and the international community may not understand that, but Iowa is like a caucus, and you can’t take any vote for granted. Nobody makes the decision until they’re sitting there. So the next few days really provide us with a real opportunity to hold some hands, to have some conversations, to share our visions, to make the world understand that this is an opportunity for the United States to connect to the world in a really important way at a very critical time, and for each of us to show them our passion and sincerity to be part of the world in a very special way, and to let people know that we understand that sports saves lives, that it makes dreams come true, that it creates visions in kids’ heads to make them think they can be the next David Robinson, the next Barack Obama, the next Nadia Comaneci, the next Oprah Winfrey. Those dreams have to start somewhere, and for so many, they start when they watch the Olympics.
And if we can show people that we understand that power and that possibility, then they will have the confidence that not only will we have the city – the Olympics in a city that works, but will execute this thing with the kind of passion and openness and sincerity that the world so greatly wants to see in us. So let’s get it done. Thank you so much. ###