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Matt Dunham  /  AP
"I urge you to choose Chicago," President Barack 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.
updated 10/2/2009 2:24:02 PM ET 2009-10-02T18:24:02

President Barack Obama said Friday he has "no doubt" that Chicago put together the strongest bid it could to win the 2016 Olympics.

He said he wished he had brought back better news from Friday's voting in Copenhagen, where his personal appeal did not help his adopted hometown win. He said he had called the president of Brazil, which won, to congratulate him.

"Our athletes will see him on the field of competition in 2016," Obama said he told President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Obama expressed pride at the city officials and thousands of volunteers who put "heart and soul" into Chicago's bid. And he invited people from other countries to come to the United States anyway to "see what we're all about."

"I believe it’s always a worthwhile endeavor to promote and boost the United States of America," he said of his lobbying effort.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, had flown to Copenhagen to pitch for the games to be brought to her hometown and his adopted hometown.

Personal setback
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.

Video: Olympic bid 'worth the effort,' Axelrod says 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.

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"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.

GOP criticism
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 should not be hopscotching to Europe in Air Force One when there were so many pressing issues to deal with at home.

Asked by a reporter how he thought his pitch went, Obama gave a thumbs up — and he said the video montage of Chicago during the U.S. presentation made him miss home.

He joked that only one part upset him: "They arranged for me to follow Michelle — that's always bad."

Both Obamas spoke on deeply personal terms about Chicago, the city at the center of the world's spotlight so many times, including in November when the former Illinois senator won the White House. The president described Chicago as a city of diversity and warmth, a place where he finally found a home.

"It's a city that works, from its first World's Fair more than a century ago to the World Cup we hosted in the nineties," Obama said. "We know how to put on big events."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Obama on failed Olympic bid

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