By Tom Degun in Chicago and Duncan Mackay in London

September 11 - Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympics will not be weakened by the decision of United States President Barack Obama to send the First Lady, his wife Michelle (pictured), to the final vote next month instead of him attending personally, officials here claimed today.

Obama rung Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), earlier today to inform that he needs to stay in the US to focus on the effort to pass vital health care legislation and would be unable to attend the IOC Session in Copenhagen on October 2, where the host city to follow London 2012 will be chosen.

Patrick Ryan, the chairman and chief executive of Chicago 2016, claims that he and the rest of the his bid team are “really excited that Michelle Obama is coming to Copenhagen”.

Ryan said: “Michelle Obama has a fantastic image.

"She is very committed to young people in America, to getting them into sport and to health care.

"I know she will represent her country and her partner extremely well.

“We haven’t had a chance to look at her schedule yet but she will certainly be part of the Chicago 2016 presentation in Copenhagen."

The 45-year-old First Lady, who was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago and met and married Barack in 1992, will be accompanied to the Danish capital by Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to the President, who Ryan described as a “big supporter of Chicago and the bid."

Although Michelle Obama is a significant political figure, her husband's absence could be a major blow to Chicago’s bid with just weeks to go before the vote, especially as he had been widely expected to travel to offer his support to his home city.

But Ryan insisted that President Obama remains hugely committed to the Chicago bid.

Ryan said: “The President has demonstrated his support for Chicago again and again and nobody questions his commitment to the bid.

"He has sent four video taped messages [to the IOC] and supported us from the very beginning."

But there does remain speculation here that the President still might travel to Copenhagen at late notice to lobby members for Chicago’s campaign.

Ryan (pictured) was quick to not to fuel any rumours. 

Ryan said: “He said what he said in the statement [issue by the White House that revealed the First Lady and not the President was going to Copenhagen] and we are not going to start speculating about it.

“We don’t want to talk about doors and windows [which could see Obama head to Denmark at the last minute].

"We would love him to be there but he has extremely important issues to deal with in American and health care plan to see through."

Chicago’s rivals, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo, will almost certainly be bringing their countries most recognisable political figures to the vote in Copenhagen and will inevitably try to portray Obama's absence as a sign of lack of political support from the US Government.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has already made his travel plans as has King Juan Carlos of Spain.

Japan has invited incoming Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Crown Prince Naruhito but Ryan is adamant that Chicago will not be at a disadvantage.

Michelle Obama still has strong links with Chicago that the bid team will be hoping to demonstrate shows her family's commitment to bringing the Games to the city.

She has held public sector positions in the Chicago City Council as an assistant to the Mayor, and as assistant commissioner of planning and development.

Obama has also worked at the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago Hospitals.

There are parallels with London's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics.

Tony Blair's wife, Cherie, was a high-profile ambassador during the campaign and forged close personal relationships with a number of IOC members that proved crucial in helping London beat big favourites to be awarded the Games at the IOC Session in Singapore in 2005.

Ryan said: “Michelle Obama will represent the country tremendously well and we have incredible support for this bid.

"The whole country is united behind this city and we are not going to lose the vote through lack of support.

“We are up against other fantastic cities with fantastic bids and it is great that world leaders will be there in Copenhagen but the bid will not be decided by political leaders, it will be decided by the merits of the bidding cities.

“I don’t know if we could rack up our bid anymore.

"We’re really ratchet it up and so is our competition."

Related stories
September 2009:
David Owen - Barack Obama needs to launch a major charm offensive for Chicago to win 2016
May 2009: President of EOC claims Obama will swing 2016 for Chicago
May 2009: Obama gives Chicago the edge in 2016 race claims Samaranch
April 2009: IOC Group greeted in Chicago with message from Obama
March 2009: Obama makes early pledge to attend IOC meeting