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Obama Says He's Not Going To Copenhagen For 'Close' 2016 Olympics Vote: IOC Chief

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LONDON — IOC president Jacques Rogge said disputes with the U.S. Olympic Committee will have "no negative effects whatsoever" on Chicago's chances of landing the 2016 Summer Games.

Rogge also reiterated Thursday that he believes the Oct. 2 decision will come down to a handful of votes. He said President Barack Obama told him that first lady Michelle Obama is the best "stand-in" to push Chicago's case at the meeting in Copenhagen.

Rogge spoke in a conference call with reporters two weeks days ahead of the International Olympic Committee vote in the tight race between Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid and Tokyo.

"I think I can make a bet today and say that it's probably going to be a couple of votes, two, three, four," Rogge said, echoing his comments in an Associated Press interview last week. "Something like four, five votes is only the situation of a change of mind of two or three persons. You see how close it is. You can convince two people more and you might win."

The IOC's 100-plus members vote by secret ballot, with the candidate getting the fewest votes eliminated in each round until one city secures a winning majority. In 2005, London beat Paris by four votes – 54-50 – in the final round to secure the 2012 Olympics.

Chicago, seeking to bring the Summer Olympics to the U.S. for the first time since 1996, has had to endure tensions between the USOC and the IOC over the American body's share of Olympic revenues and its plans to launch a U.S. Olympic television network.

However, Rogge noted that the two sides reached a truce on the revenue issue in March and the USOC agreed last month to put its TV project on hold.

"I think it will have no negative effect whatsoever," he said. "These two things are out of the discussion now, so I don't except a negative aspect."

Obama, who considers Chicago home, called Rogge last Friday to inform him that he wouldn't be going to Copenhagen because he is busy seeking a health care overhaul. Instead, he is sending his wife, who grew up in Chicago, to lead the delegation.

"President Obama expressed in a very clear way his very strong support for Chicago, and you know how charismatic he is when he wants to express the love for his city," Rogge said. "He was very clear to say he's totally behind the bid and will remain behind the organization should Chicago get the games.

"But he explained (to) me that the current political situation in Washington did not allow him to participate in the bid in Copenhagen. He said with a sense of humor that he would send the best part of his couple, and that the first lady would probably be the best stand-in that he could have imagined for himself."

While there has been speculation that Obama could still decide to fly to Copenhagen at the last minute, Rogge said he never mentioned that possibility to him.

"He did not speak about eventually coming to Copenhagen," Rogge said.

In recent years, government leaders have traveled to the IOC meetings to help seal the deal, including Tony Blair for London and Vladimir Putin for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Spanish King Juan Carlos have said they will be in Copenhagen for the vote. Tokyo's bid organizers are urging new Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to go.

"The IOC is very honored by the presence of dignitaries, heads of state, heads of government," Rogge said. "It is also reassurance that public authorities are behind the bid and will be supportive. However, this is absolutely not a requirement of the IOC.

"If they come, we're glad they come, we're honored, but we don't want them to come at all (costs)."

Asked about Rio's case for taking the Olympics to South America for the first time, Rogge said that could be "one element" in the IOC vote.

"Is it a big role? Is it a lesser role? This is up to each IOC member to decide," he said. "It's one of the issues that will be considered."

Rogge said the members' trust in the bid leaders will prove decisive.

"All being equal between different cities in terms of technicalities, it's the confidence you have in the people who have made the bid and who will be the organizers in staging the games," he said. "You give the games to a couple of people, and the charisma of these people is very important."

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