First Lady will be joined by Sam Kass, US Olympians and royalty as her child health initiative gets three days in the international spotlight; East Wing announces additions to the schedule...
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As she leads the Presidential Delegation to the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, First Lady Michelle Obama will make history on Friday morning when she hosts her first-ever large-scale event for the Let's Move! campaign on foreign shores.
A fitness festival for more than 1,000 British and American children that will be held at the historic Regent's Park residence of US Ambassador Louis B. Susman, the open-press event will thrust the Let's Move! campaign onto the world stage as it is televised internationally. It is twinned with Saturday's Let's Move! Olympic Fun Day in the US, a nationwide event. The globe is ripe for Mrs. Obama's plucking: Worldwide obesity has doubled since 1980, with more than 40 million children under the age of five overweight in 2010, and over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women obese in 2008, according to the World Health Organization.
"I'm excited that it will serve as a powerful opportunity to send another message to the kids in this country and other countries about the importance of staying fit, learning to compete, staying healthy," Mrs. Obama told reporters during a conference call previewing her trip.
The First Lady's packed schedule through Sunday includes cheering on Team USA, breakfast and brunch with current and past Olympians and officials, meet & greets, and rubbing shoulders with dignitaries and royalty, including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She will be accompanied in London by Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass (above), and five US Olympic medalists who make up the Delegation along with Ambassador Susman.
Two of the Delegation members have devoted themselves to Let's Move! as members of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition: Men's basketball gold medalist Grant Hill and gold and bronze medal gymnast Dominique Dawes, who is co-chair.
"Leading our nation's delegation and traveling to London is truly a dream come true," Mrs. Obama said.
It's a dream with big bandwidth for the most televised First Lady in US history. With 204 countries competing for 906 medals before an expected audience of about 3.9 billion people worldwide who can tune in 24/7 on TV, laptops, tablets, and phones, Mrs. Obama will potentially have a monster audience for her message. Her many previous outings promoting Let's Move! on US TV seem like a 50-yard dash in comparison to the Olympic spotlight. Former First Ladies Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush both led Olympic Delegations, but neither used the Games to promote their signature initiatives.
"Live" updates about some of the First Lady's London activities will be released on the @LetsMove Twitter account, the East Wing announced today. As of this writing, the account has 43,394 followers.
"If anybody had asked me when I was 10 or 11 or 20, or actually 40, whether I would be doing this, I would have bet not," Mrs. Obama said of leading the Delegation.
Two and a half years ago, no one would have bet that Mrs. Obama would be co-branding her signature campaign with the Olympics, either. But since launching in February of 2010, Let's Move! has expanded exponentially in the US by co-branding with high-profile corporations such as global giants Walmart and Disney. The world stage is an ambitious if logical next step. (Above: Mrs. Obama unveiling the major commitment from Disney)
Taking the campaign to the rest of the world has been long in the planning. In September of 2011, Kass and other members of the Let's Move! team attended the first-ever High Level Meeting at the United Nations on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases. The summit focused on combating obesity, overweight and diet-related disease in nations around the world. The only other health summit the UN has ever hosted focused on HIV/AIDS.
"The First Lady has really seen the Olympics as obviously an amazing moment for the nation and for the world," Kass said. "But also an incredible opportunity to rally around the health and wellbeing of our kids and utilize all the excitement around the games to inspire our kids to move more."
"So we have been hard at work at that for many, many months."
Great Britain has already gotten a preview of Let's Move!. Mrs. Obama's book American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America is for sale in the United Kingdom, and has gotten nice notices in the press, which included re-prints of recipes from the book re-tooled with metric system measurements.
The Friday schedule...
Friday's 11:30 AM sports fest at the Ambassador's Winfield House is co-sponsored by Nickelodeon, another global brand that has partnered with Mrs. Obama to promote her campaign. The extravaganza includes sports stations provided by The NBA and USA Basketball, U.S. Tennis Association, USA Field Hockey, USA Track and Field and other organizations. There will be performances by Nick TV stars and characters, and the chance for the kids to meet Olympic and Paralympic legends, including Bart Conner, Nadia Comaneci, Teresa Edwards, Emily Hughes, Sarah Hughes, Shawn Johnson, Carl Lewis, Dikembe Mutombo, Dara Torres, members of the 2012 US Track and Field Team and Manchester United, among others.
"That is going to be a ball," Mrs. Obama said.
It remains to be seen if the First Lady will kick off her shoes and skip rope barefoot with the Britons as she does at the White House, or if she will do the Dougie.
"Even SpongeBob will be there," said Kass.
As will the Power Rangers and David Beckham, star midfielder for the LA Galaxy, Major League Soccer's current champions. The UK's most famous export did not make Great Britain's soccer team, but he's loaning his starpower to the First Lady. Beckham visited the White House in April as President Obama honored the team, and he took part in a Let's Move! event then, too.
Before the historic Let's Move! event on Friday, Mrs. Obama and the Delegation will have breakfast at 9:00 AM to honor members of Team USA. The informal event will be at the U.S. Olympic training facility at the University of East London. Mrs. Obama's "brief remarks" will be televised.
Things will be far more formal on Friday evening. Ahead of attending the Opening Ceremony, the First Lady will be at Buckingham Palace for a reception hosted by The Queen, where she will rub elbows with Heads of State leading the other Delegations. The Queen welcomed President Obama and Mrs. Obama for a State Visit last summer, and they stayed at Buckingham Palace. The visit included a State Banquet, and the Obamas reciprocated with what was dubbed a Return State Dinner at Winfield House. They first met Her Majesty in 2009 during the London G20, and Mrs. Obama later returned for a summer vacation to London with her daughters, which included another meeting with the monarch. (Above: Mrs. Obama during her first visit with The Queen)
Saturday: First Lady attends Games; Let's Move! Olympic events in the US...
On Saturday, there will be more Let's Move! Olympic action, though this time events will also be in the US. As Mrs. Obama and the Delegation attend the games to cheer on Team USA at yet-to-be-announced-venues in the morning and evening--the action will be Tweeted--there will be the Let's Move! Olympic Fun Day events across America.
"Kids and families across the country are going to come together to cheer on Team USA and participate in all kinds of athletic activities in their communities through meetup.com," Mrs. Obama said.
"So as our Olympic athletes begin to compete in London, they will truly be inspiring a generation of young people to get active and to strive for excellence."
The Let's Move! campaign has offered all kinds of ideas for the meetup events, from viewing parties to swimming contests to mini gymnastics events.
"We have almost 200 cities and towns and communities that have signed up to do events to really give kids opportunities to play and be active in the theme of the Olympics," Kass said.
"Some of my fondest memories--when I was young and not so young--involve watching the Olympics on TV and cheering on Team USA," Mrs. Obama said. "I decided that I wanted to turn that Olympic spirit and inspiration into action by using these games as a way to get more kids up and moving."
This year's Olympics, as in years past, are sponsored by McDonald's and Coca-Cola, and children watching the games will be treated to loads of advertising for junk food, with the anti Let's Move! message that this is the best diet for elite athletic performance. But when asked if there will be any effort to combat this, Kass merely said that healthier foods will be offered at the London Let's Move! event.
"We’ll be having water and we’ll be having some healthy granola bars and we’ll be having some nuts and other very healthy treats," Kass said.
Meetup participants are being encouraged to Tweet their events, too: The hashtag is #LetsMoveDay. The avatar on the Let's Move! Twitter account was changed this week to be the meetup logo.
The Special Relationship...and the 2012 campaign
The First Lady's trip is also a crucial diplomatic mission, said Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications. On Saturday, Mrs. Obama will have a closed-press meeting with Mrs. Samantha Cameron, wife of Prime Minister David Cameron. Mrs. Obama first announced her Let's Move! Olympics plans in March when the Camerons were at the White House for a two-day State Visit. The First Lady escorted Mrs. Cameron to a mini Olympics event at American University, where they watched local school children dash around the gym doing sports games, led by American Olympians. (Above: Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Cameron at the White House during the State Visit)
"This, in addition to being an important visit to the Olympics, is another opportunity to reaffirm the special relationship between the U.S. and the United Kingdom," Rhodes said.
Still, it can't be overlooked that any visit to London is also a boost for President Obama's re-election campaign. Great Britain is home to more than a quarter million American ex-pats, and about 150,000 of these live in the greater London area. High-profile expats, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, who is married to British singing star Chris Martin, hosted fundraisers for Candidate Obama during his first bid for the White House. More are scheduled for this year's campaign in London and, thanks to George Clooney, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Sunday: First Lady attends Games, Brunch, Meet & Greets...
On Sunday, Mrs. Obama will again be at Ambassador Susman's house, where she will attend a closed-press brunch for the U.S. Olympic Committee, U.S. Olympic alumni athletes and Team USA supporters; potential donors are expected to attend, according to reports from media in London. Susman was rewarded with his Ambassadorship after being a top-tier campaign bundler in 2008 (those who gather a minimum of $500,000; the campaign does not release figures above this amount). He was so successful that he was nicknamed "the vacuum cleaner."
The New York Times published a story earlier this week that claimed that the Obama campaign will have its fundraising efforts crippled by the loss of Susman and other Ambassadors who were major fundraisers in 2008; thanks to their status as federal employees, they can no longer perform the task. But the Ambassador's brunch is an excellent opportunity for Mrs. Obama to woo American ex-pats.
No guest list will be released. More than 100 guests are expected.
Presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is also in London attending the games, making his first trip abroad as a candidate. He's openly fundraising during his visit. So US politics will be much in the spotlight--not least in part because the Democrats have used Team USA members to deride the GOP. Team USA dressage competitors Jan Ebeling of California and his spectacular 15-year-old Oldenburg mare Rafalca, who is co-owned by Ann Romney, have been featured in video ads deriding Romney's policies. The Democratic National Committee has apologized, but that hardly makes up for the distasteful show.
Following the brunch, Mrs. Obama will have a closed-press meet & greet with US embassy staff --"one of our most important embassies in the world," Rhodes said.
The East Wing also newly announced today that Mrs. Obama will have another round of cheering on Team USA on Sunday, at "an Olympic sporting event to be announced." The action will be Tweeted on @LetsMove.
At 6:30 PM on Sunday Mrs. Obama will meet with US military and their families stationed at Mildenhall Air Force Base. That event is in service to her other signature initiative, the Joining Forces campaign to support and honor members of the US military.
The First Lady will have a closed-press arrival in London late on Thursday evening. Who is traveling with her aboard her government-owned plane? The East Wing declined to provide details. Mrs. Obama's newly updated schedule, released today, makes no mention of her departure date from the UK.
The other Delegation members accompanying Mrs. Obama are past US Olympic medalists Brandi Chastain, Gabriel Diaz de Leon, and Summer Sanders. CLICK HERE for their Olympics bios.
In addition to Mrs. Obama's visit to London and Saturday's meetups, there's more Let's Move! Olympic action in America. The U.S. Olympic Committee and ten of its governing sports bodies has committed to help get 1.7 million kids get active in their communities this year with a slate of fitness initiatives. Mrs. Obama joined Olympics officials in May to announce the free summer sports programs, which range from cycling to volleyball to tennis and gymnastics.
The Olympics run through August 12 in venues in and around London.
*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama; photo of the First Lady with Her Majesty by Pete Souza/White House