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An audacious plea for hope

September 13, 2009|Tracee Hamilton

WASHINGTON — Go, Mr. President. Go to Denmark and bring back the Olympics to your beloved Chicago, to the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, except when discussing health care reform.

In sports parlance, you need a win. And the U.S. Olympic Committee could use the buzz your presence would provide. Let's face it: You're the ratings equivalent of a seven-game ALCS between the Yanks and the Sox.

The International Olympic Committee, in its infinite arrogance, expects the leader of each bid nation to attend the biennial "meetings" at which Olympic hosts are chosen. (Imagine a massive display of corporate excess that is not subsidized by a government bailout.)

On Oct. 2 in Copenhagen, IOC members will choose a host for the 2016 Summer Games. The contenders: Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro.

How important is it for the leader of the free world to attend? Well, London got the 2012 Games after British Prime Minister Tony Blair jetted in for the vote, and Vladimir Putin did the same to get the 2014 Games for dark horse Sochi, Russia.

Talk about your peer pressure.

"All the other world leaders are doing it," cries the Chicago 2016 bid crowd.

That is true. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako will attend. Heck, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain are going, and they're old-school Euro royalty, for heaven's sake, all armadas and global navigation and Raffy Nadal matches. Imagine how busy!

Last week in Chicago, USOC officials faced a barrage of questions about Obama's plans, which they deflected as diplomatically as possible. They did not actually fall to their knees in supplication, but they did make the deadly "puppy eye" maneuver. Asked later about the president's plans, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs initially said Obama wouldn't attend, and when the Chicago media in the room leapt for him, he changed that answer to "we'll check and see."

Olympians will visit the White House next Wednesday. What a perfect time to make the announcement. After all, the USOC really needs a little of that famous Obama mystique right about now. It's been squabbling with the IOC over TV revenue and sponsor revenue and, for all we know, whether Ellen DeGeneres will be a better "Idol" judge than Paula Abdul. The USOC-IOC relationship has deteriorated into Tom and Katie; someone needs to step in before it becomes Shawne and Tila.

So, Mr. President, learn to say "Ich bin ein Berliner," but change Berliner to Copenhagener, and say it in Danish. (Try "Jeg er en Copenhagener.") Better yet, practice saying "I am the man who accompanied Michelle Obama to Denmark" with an aw-shucks smile. Frankly, the first lady is your secret weapon. Remember, she enchanted the notoriously unenchantable Queen Elizabeth, a woman who is known for preferring carpet-piddling Corgis to the famously enchanting Princess Diana.

Or better still, send Mrs. Obama with a secret weapon of her own: Oprah. We are not without royalty of our own, you know. Doesn't the Queen of America trump the King of Spain?

Come on, Mr. President, less than a year ago you were in Chicago's Grant Park, making your victory speech as Oprah looked on, literally weeping on someone's shoulder. Put Crying Oprah to work for you. And if she wants to give away hybrids or spa weekends or schmaltzy bestsellers while she's over there, hey, this is the IOC, not known for reticence in accepting expensive gifts.

But even if our first lady and queen can't trump all the kings and crown princes in Denmark -- they have Hamlet, we have Mel Gibson as Hamlet -- surely we can win this hand. If we play our ace.

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Hamilton writes for the Washington Post.

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