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Oprah tickets available for show featuring Olympians

MILLENNIUM PARK | Oprah goes for gold

August 30, 2008

Oprah fans and Olympic buffs can get a glimpse of their heroes Wednesday at Millennium Park.

Tickets for seats at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion will be distributed today beginning at noon at the park for Wednesday's taping of an "The Oprah Winfrey Show" episode featuring swimming sensation Michael Phelps.

Those who miss out on the tickets are invited to show up at Millennium Park on Wednesday for lawn seating to watch the 10 a.m. taping, said Winfrey spokeswoman Michelle McIntyre. The Great Lawn seats 7,000 people.

Phelps will be joined by more than 150 Olympic medal athletes, including gymnast Nastia Liukin, swimmer Dara Torres, basketball player Kobe Bryant and beach volleyball players Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh.

The taping is a boon for Chicago's Olympic bid efforts. While the show is seen in 130 markets in the United States, with an estimated audience of 21 million viewers a week, it also airs in 107 other countries. Many members of the International Olympic Committee live in countries where Winfrey's show airs.

"If used properly, Olympic athletes are really the best speakers, ambassadors and behind-the-scenes boosters a city can have, because they have an emotional link to IOC members," said Mike Moran, the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee at 13 Olympic Games.

Having Olympians on Winfrey's show also accomplishes another goal: national support. During New York's failed effort to win the 2012 Summer Games, "many considered our bid just a 'New York bid' and not America's,'' Moran said.

In announcing the show, which will air Sept. 8, Winfrey's production company, Harpo Inc., called the program "an opportunity for Chicago to showcase its Olympic spirit.''

"It's a great thing for us,'' said Chicago 2016 spokesman Patrick Sandusky. Winfrey is not a member of the Chicago 2016 committee.

Earlier this week, the bid committee announced that Phelps, who won eight gold medals in Beijing, would visit to help promote bringing the Games to Chicago. Officials are working on a visit to a Chicago Park District swim club.