By Sam Youngman - 10/02/09 03:36 PM EDT
The International Olympic Committee on Friday dealt a severe blow to President Barack Obama, rejecting Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics on its first ballot. The IOC selected Rio de Janeiro, Brazil after a second round of ballots.
IOC members turned down Chicago after Obama traveled to Copenhagen to lobby personally for his adopted hometown to win the Summer Games. This was the first time a sitting U.S. president made a personal pitch for an Olympic bid by his country.
Obama himself acknowledged last month that he needed to be stateside as the healthcare debate progressed, but he decided this week to make the trip, leaving Thursday night to join First Lady Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey to lobby for Chicago.
The announcement of Chicago's Olympic defeat is a high-profile embarrassment on the international stage that contrasts with other times Obama has been in the world’s spotlight since taking office in January. Obama was widely hailed at a meeting of the G-20 earlier this year in London, and received a warm welcome from France last summer during a visit to commemorate the Normandy landing.
Appearing on MSNBC, David Axelrod, Obama's senior adviser, defended the president's decision to make the trip, saying that Obama "will go anywhere to promote this country."
While Axelrod said the IOC's decision was a disappointment, he thought "it was worth the effort and we should move on."
Axelrod noted that Obama was only gone Thursday night and Friday morning.
"I think it was well worth the investment of time, so I have no regrets about that and I know he doesn't," Axelrod said.
The president is scheduled to make a statement in the Rose Garden later Friday afternoon.
News of the defeat came as the president was flying back to Washington after trying to sell the IOC on Chicago's viability as a host city.
Obama is the first U.S. president to personally lobby for the Olympics. The president's decision to fly to Copenhagen came as Chicago found itself in the national spotlight after a video of the horrific beating death of a 16-year-old honors student made the rounds of the Internet.
Hours before the president boarded Air Force One to Denmark, the White House announced that Obama was dispatching Attorney General Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to Chicago next week to address the issue of youth violence.
Obama was deeply concerned about the video, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said this week, discussing the issue with advisers in the Oval Office.
Gibbs said he was unaware of whether Obama had seen the video.
Gibbs hinted, however, that Obama was prepared to defend the city, saying that Obama has “full confidence in the safety of the city and will be prepared to talk about that if that were a question.”
“Obviously, it’s of great concern to the president, as somebody who’s lived in Chicago, but would and should be a concern for every American,” Gibbs said of 16-year-old Derrion Albert’s killing. “This isn’t a Chicago problem,” said Gibbs, who called youth violence “a problem throughout our country.”
Obama flew to Denmark Thursday night to make his sell, portraying Chicago as a diverse melting pot that reflects the international spirit of the Olympics.
"Chicago is a place where we strive to celebrate what makes us different just as we celebrate what we have in common," Obama said.