CHICAGO -- When Chicago's business-like 2016 Olympic bid team makes it final presentation in Copenhagen on Friday, expect to hear its purposeful pitch softened by emotional chords, with first lady Michelle Obama, and perhaps her husband, President Barack Obama, bringing the appeal to its crescendo.
After 2 1/2 years of working to convince International Olympic Committee members that Chicago can deliver a compact Summer Games in the heart of the city, the bid team needs to warm it up to slide past emotional favorite Rio de Janeiro, as well as well-connected Madrid and well-financed Tokyo, observers say.
"We've heard over the past several months that the IOC is looking for the personality side, the heart, the passion," said John Rowady, whose sports marketing firm, rEvolution, has worked with a Chicago 2016-affiliated organization. "That's the cherry on the sundae if they can pull it off."
Mayor Richard Daley's 2016 bid team isn't revealing its entire playbook at this point, and neither are its rivals. But recent comments by White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett have indicated Michelle Obama's remarks will be "profoundly personal" and unlikely to leave a dry eye in the house.
Obama, a Harvard-trained lawyer, likely will talk about her working-class, South Side roots, her family's love of watching sports -- especially the Olympics -- on TV, her love for her hometown and her confidence in the city's ability to deliver the games.
"When Michelle speaks, everyone knows she's speaking from the heart and telling the truth," Jarrett said.
The city's pitch also is expected to include a talk by Olympic hurdler Edwin Moses, a two-time gold medalist who is highly regarded in the Olympic movement.
Talk-show diva Oprah Winfrey, who will lobby IOC members in Copenhagen, is not expected to be part of the final presentation. Olympian Michael Jordan, who has expressed support for the bid in videos, appears to be bowing out entirely. President Obama has said he can't commit to attending because he is working on health reform, but later indications are that he may make the trip.
To pull off a victory, Chicago will have to wow voters who have been wooed in just about every conceivable fashion. The Russian city of Sochi, for instance, flew an outdoor figure skating rink to tropical Guatemala so the Russia Ice Theater could perform "Sleeping Beauty" as part of the city's successful lobbying for the 2014 Winter Games. Rome tried a different tack, presenting famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti, but lost out to Athens for the 2004 Summer Games.
These bells and whistles may be just that, but they raise the bar for candidate-city bid teams who are well aware that 11th-hour surprises can sway a handful of undecided voters, putting a city over the top. Last-minute appeals by Tony Blair and Vladimir Putin helped secure London 2012, and Sochi 2014, respectively.
"In our view, the last presentation can be very important in the overall decision of some IOC members," said Carlos Roberto Osorio, secretary-general of Rio's bid team. "We still have some rabbits to take out of our hats."
In an effort to keep some of its own rabbits tucked into its hat, Chicago's bid team has spent the past few days holed up in the ancient Danish town of Middlefart, a former whaling port turned seaside resort on the island of Funen.
Its task, insiders say, is to develop a Plan A, with President Obama as the closer, and a Plan B, without him. After all the swirling speculation over whether he will appear, some observers say his absence may be viewed as a slap in the face, even if he makes a video appeal, as he has done for the bid in other key presentations.
Others say Michelle Obama is capable of carrying the day. "The words of a mother describing hope for future generations will be very powerful, and I think she will do it eloquently," said Billy Payne, who led Atlanta's successful bid for the 1996 Summer Games. "We benefited from the participation of one of the truly great speakers of all time in (former UN ambassador) Andrew Young."
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, in an interview, heralded the first lady as "an amazing ambassador for our country. ... She's a quick study, intelligent, a charming person. She'll do great."
The final presentation, always critical, may be even more so this time. Unlike previous votes, this one will not be preceded by an IOC executive board meeting, so many IOC members may not arrive until one day before the vote, leaving little time for candidates to lobby them. Bid cities are allowed to lobby individual IOC members as long as it's at official gatherings such as the Copenhagen meeting.
And this time, the race is expected to be extraordinarily close.
"I don't sense there is any clear, blue water out there at the moment," said London 2012 leader Sebastian Coe, a track gold medalist whose charisma added electricity to his city's final pitch and subsequent razor-thin upset victory over Paris.
Many observers put Rio and Chicago at the forefront, but caution that both Madrid and Tokyo cannot be ruled out.
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The dynamic in the 2014 Winter Games election shifted dramatically when Russia's president, Putin, flew into Guatemala City two days before the vote that made Sochi, Russia, the host. Not only did Putin have private meetings with IOC members, as the British prime minister had done for London's 2012 bid two years earlier, but he played a major part in the Sochi presentation, giving a five-minute speech nearly all in English.
It was the first time Putin had spoken English in public, but what he said would have been telling in any language, since he promised $12 billion in government support to build facilities and infrastructure. Until that point, Sochi had been viewed as an entirely "virtual" bid -- just ski slopes but no supporting infrastructure.
While Chicago is betting on the international popularity of the Obama presidency to power its presentation, Rio is looking to charismatic Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, an energetic backer of its bid. And Rio will attempt to hammer home its message that the IOC needs to broaden its global reach.
"The presentation will show the huge potential of holding a first Olympics in South America," Osorio said, "and what that could represent in terms of the future of the Olympic movement."
Japan's newly elected prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has been invited to join the Tokyo 2016 bid team in Copenhagen, but there is no word yet on whether he will fly in. With $4 billion already set aside for Games infrastructure construction, Tokyo is promoting its bid as "recession-proof."
Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia will head the delegation for Madrid, which was a finalist in the 2012 competition. The real power behind this bid, however, may be the continuing strong influence of former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch Sr., of Spain.
His stature, together with the efforts of his son, IOC member Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., on behalf of the bid, should help the bid, said Mercedes Coghen, its chief executive. "Both are very committed," she said.
Unlike the competition for the 2012 Summer Games, where it was clear Moscow and New York would be eliminated in the early rounds of the five-way race, this one features four strong candidates, said Coe, of London's organizing committee.
"That is why I think none of these cities can afford to take their foot off the pedal at all," he said. "My gut instinct is that with the presentations and the nature of this bid, it's all still to play for."