There will be an all-star entourage on hand tomorrow in Copenhagen, Denmark trying to convince the International Olympic Committee to select Chicago for the 2016 games. President and First Lady Obama will be joined by other big names, such as Oprah Winfrey. So what could Chicago bring to the Olympics and how big of a deal is it?
Former Chicago Bull Scottie Pippen was a member of the original Olympic “Dream Team” and is lending his efforts to Chicago’s bid. He spoke to Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Thursday. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.
Kiran Chetry: It's very tight competition. And it's down to the wire now, just a little more than 24 hours before the International Olympic Committee makes this vote. So how are you feeling about the chances of Chicago getting the games?
Scottie Pippen: Well, I feel really good. I think the mayor and his staff have done an excellent job of really getting out and pushing for these games in the last few months and now that we have the first lady and President Barack Obama, as well as Oprah Winfrey, a lot of athletes who have really gotten behind this push, I think the movement is going to be felt, especially when the voting comes.
Chetry: Some are calling you sort of an unofficial ambassador. You're not there in any official capacity, but what's been your involvement in trying to get the Olympic Games to come to Chicago?
Pippen: Well, just really as much as I can. Here a few weeks ago, I was part of the ’92 Olympic Team that went into the Hall of Fame, which was also to help raise some funds for this event. But really just trying to get out and really talk about Chicago and how important it is for us to have the Olympic Games to come to the City of Chicago. Being an Olympian and being able to play in two Olympic Games, I really understand the importance of bringing the Olympics to the city and how much it will boost our economy here and create jobs and just really pick up a lot for the City of Chicago, for its tourism and things of that nature.
Chetry: Chicago's struggling right now with the economy and unemployment, but there seems to be a 50/50 split in terms of sentiment in Chicago – at least according to polling by the Chicago Tribune – about whether or not people in Chicago actually want the games. Why do you think that it is a good move for the city to get the games to come there?
Pippen: Well, you look at the economy right now and that says a lot, really, but I think Chicago has a lot to offer. You know, I think when you talk about bringing athletes from all over the world, this city can offer them a lot. We have a lot of different cultures here, a lot of opportunities for athletes to come here and do well. Great places for the venues here that are going to be set up where the athletes can get to, back and forth from their different places of residence. And I just think this city is set up for the Olympic Games. In the long run, it will be something that will be a legacy here in Chicago, the fact that you can host the Olympic Games. That is huge. It's as important as winning a championship. I guess it is winning a championship when you can win the Olympic Games.
Chetry: My friends and I certainly watched you take home the gold back in 1992. That was in Barcelona. Then in 1996, four years later, it was on your home turf, so to speak, it was in Atlanta. How is the experience different having the Olympics in your home country?
Pippen: Well, you feel safer, for one. You're comfortable. You're in a place where you feel very familiar and especially here in Chicago. I'm very comfortable here, although I won't be playing in the games. I think it's great for the American athletes and I think every athlete around the world really wants the opportunity to come to America, come to the United States and now we have an opportunity to bring them to Chicago, which is even better. A lot of people know Chicago as being the home of the Chicago Bulls, the Cubs, White Sox and the Bears, but to be able to bring them to the city and show them what Chicagoans are really like, that will be even more special. I think that, you know, we can definitely host the games. I think the mayor and his staff have shown that and I'm just hoping tomorrow that we can get the votes.
Chetry: One of the things, unfortunately, that Chicago's been in the news for recently is violence. That beating death, that horrible death of Albert Derrion, a 16-year-old that was caught on tape. It has some worried that it may hurt the bid. Do you think it may hurt the bid or do you think it will actually help with some of the crime, especially among the juveniles in Chicago right now?
Pippen: Well, I don't think it's going to hurt the bid. I mean, there's always been violence going on in the city, but you have to look at the positive things that this city has to offer and not the negative. And I think that's where we really want to show the strength of Chicago, is through the positive.