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Asking Barack Obama To The Vancouver Olympics


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The art of asking Barack Obama to the Olympics

BY MIRO CERNETIG , VANCOUVER SUN COLUMNIST

JUNE 21, 2009 9:01 PM

A lot of people assume it’s a slam dunk Barack Obama, a well-known sports aficionado, will come to Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics, lending us some of his presidential aura. Don't be so sure.

The issue came up last week, when David Gergen, an adviser to four U.S. presidents, came to town for an economic forum. Asked how best to maximize hosting the Olympics — to both build international branding and also, perhaps, improve U.S-Canada relations — he urged a concerted effort to get the U.S. president to Vancouver for the games.

The Olympics already guarantees Vancouver a worldwide TV audience in the billions. But Obama would propel media attention into the stratosphere. A first family hasn’t had a global media love-in like this since JFK and Jackie O moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue almost 50 years ago.

“If President Obama visits, it would certainly get the attention of the world,” says John Furlong, head of the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee.

But how does one go about inviting the President Of The United States, codename POTUS, to Vancouver? It’s tougher than you might think.

Officially, we can't even send out the official Olympic invitation to Obama. The International Olympic Committee protocol stipulates only a country’s Olympic organizing committee can invite a national leader. That means the U.S. Olympic Committee must invite Obama.

But there’s no guarantee it will. For one thing, U.S. officials I’ve spoken to privately suggested our Winter Olympics may only merit a vice-presidential or cabinet secretary visit. It’s not being viewed in Washington, D.C., as big an event as a Summer Games.

There’s also the 2016 Summer Olympics factor. Chicago, Obama’s hometown, is bidding for those games. If it wins, odds are good Obama will want to be in Vancouver next year, to meet with International Olympic Commission officials and promote the Chicago Olympics. If his hometown loses, though, chances of his attendance decrease.

But there are things Canada can do behind the scenes to better the odds of Obama attending.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Premier Gordon Campbell and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson need to make requests for Obama’s attendance to both the White House and the U.S. Olympic Organizing Committee. It may not be the official protocol, but it may help put 2010 on Obama’s radar.

To make Vancouver’s Olympics attractive to the White House, officials in the prime minister’s office need to think up an agenda for official meetings during the Games. This is to ensure Obama can argue there’s important government business to discuss. And there is: the revamping of the cross-border auto industry, mutual endorsement of the North American Free Trade Agreement and a look at Canada’s energy exports and how they fit into Obama’s climate-change agenda.

Don’t assume Prime Minister Harper is even thinking in this strategic vein. He’s proven to be tone deaf when it comes to parlaying the Olympics into positive political outcomes for Canada. In 2008, he snubbed China’s president Hu Jintao by refusing to attend the Beijing Summer Olympics. What’s the chance of China’s president coming to Vancouver in 2010 after that error? Zero.

There’s also the need for a back channel strategy. If we want to get Obama here, Canada needs to find someone with access to his inner circle and suggest the idea of attending the 2010 Olympics. Better yet, get the idea into the heads of two of the most effective lobbyists in the Oval Office — the first father’s two young daughters, Mailia and Sasha. He can't resist them.

Furlong thinks there’s a good chance Obama will be convinced to make a showing in Vancouver. The president’s “a sportsman,” he says, known for seeing sports as a vehicle for social change. And the U.S. will be sending one of the biggest teams to the Games, with NBC broadcasting non-stop — even Obama doesn’t get the opportunity to bask in that barrage of patriotic coverage every day.

So, it’s a no-brainer for Canada, B.C. and Vancouver to pull out all the stops to try to bring some Obamamania to Vancouver for 2010. The U.S. president’s presence offers a chance to build our brand, strengthen U.S.-Canada bonds and perhaps even stifle persistent anti-Canada and protectionist sentiments south of the border.

But we need to get going on our Obama strategy. The security planning for a U.S. presidential visit will take months. So when should we launch the campaign? How about yesterday?

mcerentig@vancouversun.com

© Copyright © The Vancouver Sun

http://www.vancouversun.com/travel/asking+...9381/story.html

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He will definitely go. He's not the type to mess around with snubbing international groups of any kind, especially the IOC which is arguably one of the top world authorities on peace-time relations. It would totally contradict his diplomatic goals to emphasize the US's position in a peaceful world community. I'm pretty sure Dubya went to all four gameses during his time in office, two of which were in Europe where he was IMMENSELY unpopular. The 2016 race is a bit more polite than the 2012 race was, and even if Chicago loses the Obamas will be extremely gracious.

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Why is it considered an "art"?

Just send El Presidente the offical letter from the Vancouver Organising Committee, along with the free tickets for the opening ceremony and other stuch stuff.

It's up to him if he wishes to attend, but I would expect him to attend regardless of Chicago getting 2016.

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Looks like Obama may snub Vancouver but he's giddy about attending the World Cup in South Africa!

http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/06/22/po...shtml?tag=stack

I dunno why you guys are deciding whether the President should go or not. Do you control his schedule? Are you in his head insofar as how he wants to SPEND his presidential time....and on what sports he cares about or not??

IceNarcissus, George W. only attended Salt Lake (of course because he was the incumbent head of state) and Beijing because all the world's TOP leaders were invited and accepted. But he didn't go to Athens or Torino.

Barack is more of a summer guy. I've not seen him indulge his family in winter sports. I think his girls might even become soccer players.

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IceNarcissus, George W. only attended Salt Lake (of course because he was the incumbent head of state) and Beijing because all the world's TOP leaders were invited and accepted. But he didn't go to Athens or Torino.

You're right, Baron.

At the Torino OC the U.S was represented by the First Lady Laura Bush and the daughters .

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I dunno why you guys are deciding whether the President should go or not. Do you control his schedule? Are you in his head insofar as how he wants to SPEND his presidential time....and on what sports he cares about or not??

Oh please, no one is saying it like that.

As US head of state who said "I love Canada. We could not have a better friend and ally," he should be expected to go if he can. It won't be because he gives a rat's ass about winter sport.

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Oh please, no one is saying it like that.

As US head of state who said "I love Canada. We could not have a better friend and ally," he should be expected to go if he can. It won't be because he gives a rat's ass about winter sport.

But WHY? Gerald Ford didn't go to Montreal. Pierre Trudeau didn't come to Los Angeles. Reagan didn't go to Calgary...and he was a 'western'-type President. The Canadian PM (whoever it was a thte time) didn't go to Lake Placid; Canadian PM didn't go to the Centennial Games in Atlanta nor Salt Lake 2002. The Canadian PM didn't come to World Cup 1994 either. So WHY should it be incumbent upon Pres. Obama to have to go to Canada??

For one thing, because the Opening will be in an enclosed venue, I believe the focus will be on the show...NOT on the audience. The audience at BC Place will be mostly in the 'dark.' So how, why should Barack really go...other than to be in the 'Olympic family' if Chicago gets the prize like 4 montha earlier.

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But WHY? Gerald Ford didn't go to Montreal. Pierre Trudeau didn't come to Los Angeles. Reagan didn't go to Calgary...and he was a 'western'-type President. The Canadian PM (whoever it was a thte time) didn't go to Lake Placid; Canadian PM didn't go to the Centennial Games in Atlanta nor Salt Lake 2002. The Canadian PM didn't come to World Cup 1994 either. So WHY should it be incumbent upon Pres. Obama to have to go to Canada??

For one thing, because the Opening will be in an enclosed venue, I believe the focus will be on the show...NOT on the audience. The audience at BC Place will be mostly in the 'dark.' So how, why should Barack really go...other than to be in the 'Olympic family' if Chicago gets the prize like 4 montha earlier.

Why did Bush go to Beijing?

Why do any heads of state go to the Olympics?

If they don't go, it may be looked as a snub... or it may not. But if they do go, it is a nice gesture towards the host country. Obama's very big on strengthening the US's relations with its strongest allies. A visit to Vancouver 2010 for a day or two would be a nice follow up to his to visit to Canada earlier this year.

Whether or not he is in the dark through the ceremony is irrelevant; people will know he's there. They'll cut to him before the show starts and when Team USA walks in. He may visit an ice event or two the next day in those brightly lit arenas.

... If he can, of course. If not, Michelle, Biden or even Hillary would do.

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1. Why did Bush go to Beijing?

2. Why do any heads of state go to the Olympics?

... If he can, of course. If not, Michelle, Biden or even Hillary would do.

1. Because Putin went and or course, Bush didn't want them talking about him behind his back. :lol: And becuase it would've been his last as a sitting US president.

2. Heads of state go if there are compelling reasons.

I don't really see Obama's having to go to a Winter Games as terribly important either for host Canada or for the U.S. Their PM or Gov-Gen'l didn't come to Salt Lake. Why is it so important for BO to attend Vancouver? I think if relations between the US and Russia are convivial in 2014, then going to Sochi might be more important than going to Vancouver.

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You're right, Baron.

At the Torino OC the U.S was represented by the First Lady Laura Bush and the daughters .

That's not a very good point. During the Sydney 2000 Games there only was Bill Clinton's daugther, in Athens 2004 there was father Bush and the Presidents wife and daugthers. Beijing was the first time a US President was there during the opening ceremony. Maybe Beijing was an exception, it's clearly not a tradition.

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1. Because Putin went and or course, Bush didn't want them talking about him behind his back. :lol: And becuase it would've been his last as a sitting US president.

2. Heads of state go if there are compelling reasons.

I don't really see Obama's having to go to a Winter Games as terribly important either for host Canada or for the U.S. Their PM or Gov-Gen'l didn't come to Salt Lake. Why is it so important for BO to attend Vancouver? I think if relations between the US and Russia are convivial in 2014, then going to Sochi might be more important than going to Vancouver.

Heads of State visiting the opening ceremony of the Olympics is not a real tradition. Until the Athens Games (because it was the homecoming of the Games) there were barely Heads of States visiting the opening ceremony for the Olympics. So it's not strange the Gov-Gen wasn't there during the opening of Salt Lake.

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Heads of State visiting the opening ceremony of the Olympics is not a real tradition. Until the Athens Games (because it was the homecoming of the Games) there were barely Heads of States visiting the opening ceremony for the Olympics. So it's not strange the Gov-Gen wasn't there during the opening of Salt Lake.

It really depends on the importance of the particular Olympics. Barcelona had like a dozen heads of state attending (including Castro and that Nicaragaun guy) because they had just concluded (and PURPOSELY TIMED IT THAT WAY) a summit of all Hispanic-speaking nations in Madrid two days before the Barcelona Opening -- and just so they could have that many number of heads of state come to the Barcelona Opening.

It is REALLY NOT COMPELLING for someone of Barack's stature and schedule to have to attend Vancouver especially because the Winter Games are NOT as universal as the Summer Games. The Winter Games are the white countries' bailwick...that is so obvious. Occasionally, a Kenya or a Jamaica will make a token appearance but it does NOT make the Winter Games as UNIVERSAL as a SUmmer Games -- so why should a sitting U.S. president attend a foreign Winter Games when 2002 was the only time an incumbent U.S. president graced a Winter Opening? :blink:

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I sure hope not. Of course if he thought it might help Chicago's chances, he may go. I just do not see Vancouver really wanting the added headache of the problems that would arise with BHO's appearence.

Vancouver happens 5 MONTHS after the 2016 vote...so Barack's appearance or NON-appearance in Vancouver is really a NON-ISSUE. Jeez!!

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Vancouver happens 5 MONTHS after the 2016 vote...so Barack's appearance or NON-appearance in Vancouver is really a NON-ISSUE. Jeez!!

Good point. The dates did not even occur to me. I guess one might think that the rumor that he may attend might help the Chicago. As you point out, his attendance in Van couver will be a moot point as fara s Chciago goes. In any case BHO does not do anything unless it helps him and his. Thanks for clearing up the dates for me (and everyone else).

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