"This could be a meeting in Chicago," he said, "because we look like the world."
Hoping to persuade the IOC to award Chicago the 2016 Olympics, President /*Barck Obama*/ and his wife led a heartfelt and, at times, very personal plea Friday. Instead of stodgy technical details, discussions of finances or computer-generated graphics, Chicago took members inside the city to show why it should win the games.
Obama spoke of finally finding a home in Chicago after a nomadic childhood. /*Michelle Obama*/ recounted how, growing up on the city's South Side, her disabled father taught her how to throw a ball and a "mean right hook." Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley invoked the memory of Jesse Owens.
"Like so many young people, I was inspired" by the Olympics, the first lady said. "I found myself dreaming that maybe, just maybe, if I worked hard enough, I, too, could achieve something great. But I never dreamed the Olympic flame might light up lives in my neighborhood.
"But today I can."
Chicago, competing with Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo for the 2016 Games, was the first of the finalists to make its presentation. Some of its speakers looked nervous and parts of the presentation came off as stilted. It also was surprisingly low-key, with a video featuring blues legend Buddy Guy and slick snapshots of the city the splashiest part of the presentation.
But that's how it was designed, Daley said.
"It's not about the words," he said. "It's about the heart and the soul."
Though Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States, it is largely unknown overseas. Or, if people are familiar with it, they see it as the home of Michael Jordan and Al Capone - and not necessarily in that order.
So Chicago showed videos of its picturesque lakefront, where most of the venues will be clustered, and artsy Millennium Park, which will be a gathering place for fans during the games. Schoolchildren read letters to the IOC in another video, and a teacher spoke of a troubled student who turned his life around after joining the wrestling team.
Highlighting the city's diversity - "It's a place where our unity is on colorful display," Obama said - the videos featured people of different colors and nationalities, including a group of veiled women playing basketball.
Bid chairman Patrick Ryan, who made his considerable fortune in insurance, spoke of the many companies that are based in the Midwest, making it "fertile territory" for new Olympic sponsors. He also mentioned the universities in and around Chicago, how they would be a source for research.
In planning the games, Chicago has made the athletes its focus, decathlon gold medalist Bryan Clay and Paralympic champion Linda Mastandrea said. The compact plan puts 90 percent of athletes within 15 minutes of their venues - a not insignificant detail, Clay said, describing a day that begins at 5 a.m. and doesn't end until midnight.
Athletes would also feel at home in Chicago, Clay said. Pick pretty much any country in the world, and it likely has its own neighborhood in Chicago - the Walgreens in Greektown has English and Greek lettering on the building. Not only does that mean "local" cheering sections for all athletes, but there will be a homestay program for their families.
Chicago will use mostly existing and temporary facilities. While that means there won't be any grand building, like the Bird's Nest in Beijing, operations chief Doug Arnot said Chicago will leave a far more lasting - and important - legacy.
"We know that concrete and steel do not build sport, people build sport," Arnot said.
The U.S. Olympic Committee has had a testy relationship with the IOC, including recent flare-ups over revenue sharing and a USOC TV network. Chicago leaders addressed that head on, repeatedly talking about wanting to be partners with the IOC. Stealing a page right out of Obama's "Yes, we can" campaign theme, one video even featured residents repeating "Together we can."
"I see a future in which the Olympic movement and the United States will move shoulder to shoulder toward the horizon, with a shared mission, together as true partners, thanks to an Olympic Games in Chicago in 2016," said Bob Ctvrtlik, a former IOC member and the USOC's vice chair of international relations.
The presentation wasn't without its hiccups. Ctvrtlik rambled when asked a specific question about legacies. Ryan confused questions asked by different IOC members.
But those missteps might well be forgotten in the wake of the Obamas.
Michelle Obama arrived Wednesday and spent the last two days charming IOC voters. She held a series of one-on-one meetings, and greeted a steady stream of members after the opening ceremony Thursday night. She arrived knowing small details of all of the members, a nice touch in a contest where the tiniest of things can make the biggest difference.
"I know you'll all agree that she's a pretty big selling point for the city," the president say.
He's not bad, either. Though Obama had barely any time to meet people - he was on the ground for all of about five hours - he left Chicago's presentation shaking hands with anyone in reach and clapped Monaco's Prince Albert on the shoulder. Outside, he and the first lady lingered for about 10 minutes, talking to members and introducing themselves.
And as proof of why his presence was so important to Chicago, several IOC members whipped out their cell phones to snap pictures of him before he left.
"I think Chicago could not have made a better presentation," Obama said as he left. "Obviously now it's up to the IOC members, but we are just grateful for the incredible hospitality."