Gibbs: Obama 'disappointed' at losing Olympics

JULIE PACE | 10/2/2009, 2:28 p.m.

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (AP) -- President Barack Obama is "disappointed" Chicago missed getting the 20016 Olympic Games but doesn't regret putting so much on the line to argue for it, his chief spokesman said Friday.

Talking to reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama and his wife Michelle flew back to Washington, Robert Gibbs said Obama "feels obviously proud of his wife for the presentation that she made." Mrs. Obama had gone to Copenhagen ahead of her husband and had lobbied hard for the Summer Games to be brought to her hometown and his adopted hometown."Absolutely," Gibbs replied, when asked whether Obama was glad he'd made such a large commitment to lobbying for the Games. He said the president "would never shy away from traveling anywhere, talking to anyone about this country."

Gibbs said that Obama got the news while watching TV alone in his quarters on the presidential jet. Chicago's early exit from finalist balloting represented a personal setback for Obama and a painful defeat Chicago, America's most prominent Midwestern city.

Many people had assumed Chicago would be a finalist. But International Olympic Committee members eliminated it only hours after Obama and his wife urged them to send the Summer Games there. Obama had put his personal prestige on the line and his political capital at risk when he decided late in the competition to go to Copenhagen and make a personal appeal.

Rio de Janeiro won the intense competition for the Games.

Chicago had seemed to pick up momentum in the last few days, with many IOC members seemingly charmed by Mrs. Obama, who came to Copenhagen ahead of her husband. But when IOC president Jacques Rogge announced the first vote's results, while the Obamas were flying home on Air Force One, Chicago was out.

In making his pitch, the president had said that a nation shaped by the people of the world "wants a chance to inspire it once more." Never before had a U.S. president made such an in-person appeal, and Obama's critics will doubtlessly see the vote as a sign of his political shortcomings.

"I urge you to choose Chicago," Obama told members of the International Olympic Committee, many of whom he later mingled with as some snapped photos of him on their cell phones.

"And if you do - if we walk this path together - then I promise you this: The city of Chicago and the United States of America will make the world proud," the president said.

The president's whirlwind trip put him in the Danish capital for less than five hours Friday, with Chicago-backers hoping that would be sufficient to give Obama's adopted home town the advantage it needed to win the close, four-way race to become the host city of the 2016 Summer Games. But the compressed time frame did not shield Obama from Republican criticism that he shouldn't be hopscotching to Europe in Air Force One when there were so many pressing issues to deal with at home.