Olympics and Olympic Sports – Rio de Janeiro to host 2016 Games

Rio de Janeiro has been chosen as the host city for the 2016 Olympic Games after an International Olympic Committee vote in Copenhagen.

The result came as a rebuff to US President Barack Obama and favourites Chicago.

IOC President Jacques Rogge announced the decision to give the Games to Rio after three rounds of voting which produced a landslide victory for the Brazilians in a final showdown with Madrid.

Chicago, despite a speech to the IOC by President Obama, who had put his credibility on the line by flying in to address the IOC just before the vote, went out as fourth and last in the first round of voting, one of the biggest shocks in an Olympic ballot.

Chicago had started as front-runners and most Olympic observers had expected the Obama factor – first lady Michelle Obama spent two days lobbying in Copenhagen and also addressed the IOC session – to be decisive.

The fourth candidate, Tokyo, were knocked out in the second ballot.

The Brazilian delegation at the Bella Convention Centre, including Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and football great Pele, cheered wildly, then broke down in tears of joy and began singing as they hugged each other and celebrated a momentous victory.

Lula’s impassioned appeal to the IOC to stop its habit of awarding Olympics to Europe, North America and the Far East and give Brazil and South America a long overdue chance clearly touched the right buttons as did an appealing video display, showing beaches, mountains and a joyous people having fun.

Rio’s Copacabana beach erupted in joy after the vote was announced, kicking off a carnival-style celebration in front of the big stage and screens broadcasting events from Denmark.

In the final round of voting by 98 eligible IOC members, Rio picked up more than two thirds, winning by 66 votes to Madrid’s 32 with one abstention.

Madrid had led the first round by 28 votes to 26 for Rio with Tokyo on 22 and Chicago last on 18.

After Chicago’s elimination, there was a strong switch to Rio in the second round, the Brazilians almost winning an outright majority, picking up 46 votes to 29 for Madrid and 20 for Tokyo.

Though the US President and his wife produced strong appeals in the day’s first 45-minute presentation by Chicago, they were almost certainly undone by the emotional tugs provided by Lula and former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch for Madrid. Lula raised the emotional stakes in his speech.

“This is a continent that has never held the Games,” he said. “It is time to address this imbalance. The opportunity is now to extend the Games to a new continent. It’s an opportunity for an Olympics in a tropical country for the first time, to feel the warmth of our people, the exuberance of our culture and the sensation of our joy.”

Even more emotionally, Samaranch, now 89, pulled powerfully at the heart-strings of members when he spoke for Madrid. “I know I am very near the end of my days,” he said. “May I ask you to consider granting my country the honour and also the duty to organise the games in 2016?”

Obama’s appearance, the first by a sitting US President at an IOC session, provoked huge interest from IOC members, even though they are used to being courted by major political figures.

Obama told the IOC: “I’ve come here today to urge you to choose Chicago for the same reason I chose Chicago nearly 25 years ago, the reason I fell in love with the city I still call home.”

Reuters

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