Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Vancouver Olympics in Canada

There will be gold, and greatness, upsets and records. But there will be no Barack Obama at Vancouver's Olympics.

The world's most powerful leader, struggling to advance his domestic agenda, is trimming his foreign schedule. The White House announced yesterday that Vice-President Joseph Biden, not Mr. Obama, will lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympics.

While Obama's star power may have faded a little in the United States, there was disappointment in Vancouver over the no-show that will deprive organizers of the biggest celebrity on the planet.

"We would obviously love it if the President was here, but if he's not, we'll go on and be happy to host whoever does show up, whether it's from the United States or other countries," said Ted Townsend, spokesman for the City of Richmond, home of the Richmond Olympic Oval.

Mr. Obama faces a tougher battle in passing domestic legislation since he lost the so-called super-majority in the U.S. Senate with the Democrats' defeat in Massachusetts in January. He has cut down on foreign trips, including cancelling a summit with European Union leaders.

Appearances from world leaders and dignitaries have traditionally been both status symbols and security headaches for Olympics organizers. The Chinese took it particularly seriously as the hosts of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with a political interest in getting a good crowd to their party. George W. Bush went; Stephen Harper did not.

Mr. Biden is, of course, used to being the world's most high-profile stand-in, but U.S. Ambassador to Canada David JacobsonÖ suggested in his blog yesterday that Mr. Biden will have no trouble getting into the Olympic spirit.

"I have known the Vice-President for a long time and I can tell you - he loves sports. He was a great football and baseball player when he was younger. He is an outstanding golfer these days."

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