2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin and Olympic gold-medalists Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner are among the 26 Olympic and Paralympic athletes traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark, next week as part of the U.S. delegation to support Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics Games. On Oct. 2, the International Olympic Committee will choose one of four cities – Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo – as the site for the 2016 Games. London is the host in 2012.
"It’s hard for me to be unbiased about this," Bart Conner, a Chicago native and 1984 double gold medalist, told the Associated Press. "When you look at the plan and the spectacular city and the legacy plan and the convenience for the athletes against the backdrop of the city, on lots of levels, Chicago gets it and understands what the Olympics is about."
First Lady Michelle Obama leads the delegation, which includes talk show phenomenon and Chicagoan Oprah Winfrey, celebrities, and staff in addition to the athletes.
“It’s an honor to go to Denmark and support Chicago 2016,” said Liukin, who won a total of five medals at the Olympic Games in Beijing. “The Olympics are the most important sporting event in the world, and I look forward to joining Mrs. Obama and many of my fellow Olympians in Copenhagen for the bid decision.”
Joining the gymnasts are 13 other gold medalists: Michael Conley (track and field); Bryan Clay (track and field); Brandi Chastain (soccer); Bob Ctvrtlik (volleyball); Donna de Varona and Gary Hall Jr. (swimming); Ron Freeman (track and field); Michael Johnson (track and field); Jackie Joyner-Kersee (track and field); Edwin Moses (track and field); Kerri Walsh (beach volleyball); and April Holmes and Linda Mastandrea (Paralympic track and field).
Also in the delegation are: Willie Banks and Connie Moore (track and field); Bob Berland (judo); Dragomir Cioroslan (weightlifting); Anita De Frantz (rowing); David Diaz (boxing); Paul Moran (wheelchair tennis and sitting volleyball); Mike Plant (speedskating); Bill Scherr (wrestling); and Diane Simpson (rhythmic gymnastics).
Danish-native and former NFL player Morten Andersen, and retired NBA star Dikembe Mutombo will also travel to Copenhagen to show their support for Chicago’s bid.
In Copenhagen, athletes will attend many Chicago 2016 Supporter events, and some will be part of Chicago 2016’s delegation and presentation team.
“More than 2,500 athletes support Chicago 2016, and we have utilized their knowledge in all aspects of our bid—including insights into venue planning and athlete accommodations in our proposed Village, as well as to promote our bid across the United States and the world,” said Patrick G. Ryan, chairman and CEO of Chicago 2016. “We are honored to have so many athletes making the trip with us to Copenhagen for our presentation to the IOC to share their Olympic and Paralympic stories and to show their support for our bid.”
The AP contributed to this story.