Olympics: Rogge: 2016 race will hinge on 'couple of votes'
By STEPHEN WILSON
AP Sports Writer
LONDON — IOC president Jacques Rogge expects the race for the 2016 Olympics to be decided by "a couple of votes" and says Chicago's chances shouldn't hinge on whether President Barack Obama goes to Denmark to push his home city's bid.
"I see really no favorite," Rogge said Thursday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I think it's going to be a very close vote. I think the final vote will be decided by a couple of votes only."
Rogge spoke three weeks before the International Olympic Committee meeting in Copenhagen on Oct. 2 where the 100-plus members will vote by secret ballot on awarding the 2016 Summer Games to Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro or Tokyo.
Rogge said he expects the result to be as close or closer than the vote in Singapore in 2005, when London defeated Paris by four votes in the final round for the 2012 Olympics.
"There is no favorite. There is no bid that is lagging behind," Rogge said. "All the scenarios are possible."
One of the big uncertainties is whether Obama will travel to Copenhagen to lobby IOC members for Chicago's campaign to bring the Summer Olympics back to the U.S. for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has said he will be there to try to persuade the IOC to send the Olympics to South America for the first time. King Juan Carlos of Spain will be there for Madrid's bid. Japan has invited incoming Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Crown Prince Naruhito to attend.
Rogge said he has no information about Obama's plans and had firm confirmation only of the Spanish king's attendance.
"I expect this to come out probably in a fortnight at latest because there are security arrangements, there are protocol issues, there is accommodation," he said. "I guess all of this will crystalize in the next two weeks."
Rogge dismissed speculation that Chicago's chances will be harmed if Obama doesn't go.
"Absolutely not," Rogge said. "There is no obligation to come. There is neither a tradition for all the heads of state to come. We wouldn't see that as being negative whatsoever. I'm sure that if a head of state will not be coming, that head of state will definitely make a video presentation or send letters and things like that."
Rogge said he would make no judgment on whether Obama or the other leaders should be in Copenhagen.
"If they want to come, this is an honor for the IOC," said Rogge, who doesn't vote in the host-city election unless there is a tie in the final round. "We'll feel honored by their presence. It would be absolutely legitimate if they go to defend the bid of their country. We are not asking for heads of state to come there.
"They are most welcome, but this is not something that we consider as being the most important thing. It is symbolically important. They have an influence by their charisma, but it is not something the IOC is seeking and going after."
Obama has been a vocal supporter of Chicago's bid, videotaping four messages for various international Olympic meetings. He is scheduled to host U.S. Olympic athletes at the White House next Wednesday, an event where he could announce whether he will go to Copenhagen or not. The White House said Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama's top advisers, will be there for the vote.
Tony Blair, then British prime minister, traveled to Singapore and was instrumental in lobbying IOC members to vote for London. Vladimir Putin, as Russian president, helped secure the 2014 Winter Games for Sochi when he attended the IOC vote in Guatemala City in 2007.
Rogge said the members' trust in the bid committee leaders will be key.
"I think what counts most is the confidence that the members have in the future organizers," he said. "It's an issue of a human chemistry. The question we're going to ask ourselves is: A, is the file a solid one? And B, do we trust the people who made the bid to be the ones who will deliver? Do we trust these people? ... I think everything being equal between the four candidates, it's the human factor that will be the most important."
Rogge said past votes have been won due to "charismatic bid leaders who really put their stamp" on the process. He singled out Gianna Angelopoulos, who led the Athens bid for the 2004 Games.
"People trusted Gianna and then they awarded the games to Athens," he said.
Rogge said he believes most IOC members already know their choice for 2016, but that "two or three or four votes" could be swung by the final presentations on the day of the vote.
Rogge welcomed the vote by the Chicago city council on Wednesday agreeing to take full financial responsibility for the games, including any deficit. The council authorized Mayor Richard Daley to sign the IOC's standard host city contract, an issue that had been hanging over the bid earlier this year.
"To agree with and to sign the host city contract is a basic requirement. This is mandatory," Rogge said. "The fact that this has been done is a very good thing. We are happy about it."