Chicago, Rio de Janeiro In Heated Battle For 2016 Olympic Games

By: Ed Henry
By: Ed Henry

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (CNN) -- The battle to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games appears to be heating up between Chicago, Illinois, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, two sources close to the process told CNN Thursday.

The revelation came after a day of furious behind-the-scenes lobbying of International Olympic Committee members by American first lady Michelle Obama and famed talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who both hail from Chicago.

Madrid, Spain, and Tokyo, Japan, are also in the running, but the sources said that Chicago and Rio have emerged as the clear front-runners and are in a neck-and-neck battle ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's arrival early Friday for a presentation to the IOC's 106 members -- 97 of whom will be voting later in the day to decide which city will win the games.

After a flurry of private conversations among IOC officials here, one of the sources close to the process -- an American -- said bluntly it's "close as hell" between the U.S. and Brazilian cities.

Both Obama and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva plan to make personal appeals to the voters on behalf of their cities Friday morning.

In a sign of just how ferocious the lobbying is, King Juan Carlos of Spain and new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama are also making personal pitches to the IOC members.

Despite widespread speculation that Obama is only flying all the way to Copenhagen for a four-hour lobbying mission because the White House has gotten a private heads-up that Chicago will win and he should come to claim victory, the sources close to the process insisted that the voting has not been pre-cooked -- meaning that Obama is swooping in at some political risk because it is unclear that the U.S. bid will be successful.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who is already in Copenhagen, has been privately giving the White House positive progress reports about what he's hearing from IOC members suggesting the U.S. bid is in good shape, according to the sources.

But the sources cautioned that Obama and top aides are only cautiously optimistic and want to wait until the actual voting before they contemplate any celebrations.

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