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Bush meets with Olympic committee, supports Chicago's bid for 2016 Games

CHICAGO -- As Chicago vies for a chance to host the 2016
Summer Olympics, it can count one thing in its favor: George W.
Bush won't be president when the International Olympic Committee
picks the winning city.

"If George Bush were eligible to win a third term, no chance
with respect to the bid," sports economist Allen Sanderson said,
citing American foreign policy that isn't favorable around the
world.

But Chicago officials say they aren't worried an endorsement
from an unpopular leader might hurt the city's chances.

"I don't think it's a factor," businessman Patrick Ryan said
Monday after meeting with Bush, who enthusiastically, and publicly,
supported the city's bid.

The Bush administration's unpopularity outside the United States
didn't help New York when it pursued the 2012 Summer Games. Those
games were eventually awarded to London, which got a big boost when
then-Prime Minister Tony Blair spent two days lobbying IOC members
in person before the decisive vote.

During Monday's meeting with Olympic organizers in Chicago, Bush
learned about some of the details in the city's bid. Chicago
organizers must present a more detailed explanation of their bid to
the IOC by next Monday.

"You got a good bid," Bush told an audience. "The United
States of America stands squarely behind Chicago's bid."

Along with Ryan, leader of Chicago 2016, Bush met with Mayor
Richard Daley, city organizers and U.S. Olympic Committee members.
His visit also included a speech on the economy at a downtown civic
club and a visit to an elementary school.

While Ryan downplayed any impact on the city's bid by an
unpopular president both here and abroad, he has said previously
that the international status of the U.S. government and its
policies "will always be a factor."

"We'll have a change of administration. Even if people are
critical of the U.S. government administration and its policies, I
believe Americans are respected and well-liked as a people. I don't
get any anti-Americanism," Ryan said during a visit to China in
April for a gathering of international sports industry leaders.

USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said what matters to IOC members is
a government's support of its nation's Olympic bid, such as
providing financial support for transportation and security at the
games. For example, he said the federal government provided a
critical level of security for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter
Games.

"Support from the federal government is very important,"
Seibel said. "We appreciate the president taking the time to learn
more about the bid and express on behalf of the federal government
its support of the bid."

Ryan said they didn't get into specifics during the meeting with
Bush about financial commitments for the Olympics if they come to
Chicago.

City officials know the benefit of impressing Olympic officials
with popular politicians.

When a USOC inspection team came to Chicago last March for a
closer look at the city, Democratic presidential candidate Barack
Obama lent his support to the Olympic effort in a videotaped
message.

"Chicago is more than just a city in the middle of America,
Chicago is the heart of America," the Illinois senator said then.

The time is approaching for Chicago and the other 2016 applicant
cities to submit a detailed questionnaire to the IOC that more
fully outlines plans.

Chicago is one of seven cities bidding to host the 2016 Summer
Games. The others are Madrid, Spain; Tokyo; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil;
Prague, Czech Republic; Doha, Qatar, and Baku.

The IOC will select the host city Oct. 2, 2009.