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Chicago delegation leaves for Copenhagen
Associated Press

Backed by Olympic athletes, Maggie Daley, front, wife of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, addresses the crowd during a send-off celebration for the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid team at O'Hare International Airport on Monday,

 

Associated Press

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Published: 9/29/2009 7:30 AM | Updated: 9/29/2009 7:34 AM

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Members of Chicago's Olympic delegation got a rousing airport send-off Monday night complete with Blues Brothers impersonators and an encouraging message from Chicago first lady Maggie Daley, who predicted a "happy ending."

Daley and more than a dozen athletes headlined a departure party before boarding a flight to Copenhagen where the International Olympic Committee will decide Friday if Chicago hosts the 2016 Summer Games.

"It's been an amazing journey and we're going to have a happy ending," Daley said on a stage at O'Hare International Airport, dwarfed by a huge banner proclaiming "Back the Bid in Copenhagen."

Daley will join her husband, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, and other city bid officials already in the Danish capital. Chicago is a finalist along with Tokyo, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro.

Chicago's delegation got a mega dose of star power earlier Monday when the White House announced President Barack Obama would join his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, to personally lobby for the city's bid. The president is expected to leave Thursday.

Also in Copenhagen will be the athletes and other Chicago backers who left Monday night on a United Airlines charter flight, including husband-and-wife gymnastic stars Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner, and track ace Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

"The bid should be strong enough to win on its own merit but it sure doesn't hurt that we have such incredible star power validating Chicago's effort," Conner said. Chicago talk show host Oprah Winfrey also will travel to Copenhagen.

Conner said Obama adds to what already is a strong Chicago bid that features many competition venues and the athletes' village situated around Chicago's lakefront and an Olympic Stadium to be built in a South Side park.

But Conner said it's impossible to predict what the IOC will do on decision day.

"I love Chicago's chances," Conner said.

Comaneci said Chicago's bid officials have to think of the competition to host the games like an athlete does their sport.

"You have to go there and perform. Show what Chicago has the best. Why Chicago merits to win this and then everything else goes out of your hands," she said.

Joyner-Kersee, a track and field gold medalist, said she has "butterflies" heading to Copenhagen just like she did when she was competing. Waiting for the IOC to pick a host city has given her new appreciation for what it must have been like for her supporters.

"You have no control so now I know how my coaches felt when I was out there getting ready to compete and they're on the side," she said. "It's hard."