29 Sep 2009

US eyes will be on Copenhagen this week.

US and Iranian diplomats site down for the first direct talks in 30 years in Geneva on Thursday. But Americans are at least as interested in what happens in Copenhagen the next day, when the IOC announces the host city for the 2016 Olympics.

On Thursday negotiators will gather in Geneva for the first direct talks that have included American and Iranian diplomats for 30 years. It’s an important moment at a dangerous time, and the White House will obviously be watching very carefully what happens.

But it won’t be the European meeting that really has them biting their fingernails in the West Wing. That one takes place in Copenhagen on Friday when the IOC announces which city will host the 2016 summer Olympics – the next ones after London.

Today it’s been announced that President Obama himself is going to turn up to try to persuade the Olympians to pick his home city of Chicago. He’ll be accompanied by the first lady, who has been planning to go for weeks, and there are rumours that Oprah Winfrey (honorary Queen of Chicago) might appear too.

It sounds like a bit of a gamble – a lot of money is riding on Rio De Janero getting the games – and the president could end up with egg on his face if he turns up in person only to be rebuffed.

So does he know something that we don’t? Often celebrities are only persuaded to turn up at awards ceremonies if they are told in advance that they have definitely won. They can’t be bothered going if they are going to go away empty handed and don’t want to be seen losing.

Obama is taking Air Force One through the night on Thursday and straight back to Washington on Friday, whilst he is in the middle of a healthcare crisis at home, is in the process of deciding whether to completely change strategy in Afghanistan, and is trying to co-ordinate the international response to the revelation that Iran has a second secret nuclear processing site.

Maybe he’s judging that bringing the Olympic games to the USA is the only one of these issues on which he can possibly deliver a clear unequivocal victory.

PS Copenhagen is also the venue for a far more important meeting later in the year when the Danish play host to a crucial international meeting on climate change.

Gordon Brown has committed to attend in person and asked all world leaders to do the same. Obama has not yet said if he is prepared to go. It won’t look good if he can make it Copenhagen to get the Olympics but not to try to save the planet.