Rio de Janeiro wins bid to be host city

Rio de Janeiro has been selected by the International Olympic Committee Friday to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Focus takes a look at the reaction in Brazil and in the other cities that were competing.


AFP - Thousands partied into the small hours of Saturday, dancing on Copacabana beach to the infectious beat of samba music, celebrating Rio de Janeiro's choice as the host of the 2016 Olympic Games.

A string of artistes performed on a giant stage and officials expected crowds would reach 100,000 as the celebrations stretched late into the night, with an encore set for Sunday.

Overjoyed Cariocas -- as local residents are known -- many dressed in the national colors of green and yellow, waved Brazilian flags and balloons, hugged and showered each other with confetti.

"Rio loves you!" a crowd of 50,000 had roared upon learning the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had chosen Rio over rival heavy-weights Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid.

"I don't have the words to describe it -- it's a huge joy. Brazil deserved it, it was the country's turn," said Rafael del Castillo, a tourism student, recalling how it will be the first time the Games are held in South America.

A giant 2,200 square meter (23,680 square foot) banner with a picture of Christ Redeemer -- the landmark statue that overlooks Rio -- and the words "Rio loves you" was then unfurled over the crowd.

There was widespread support for the city's bid, with 85 percent of Rio residents in favor of bringing the Games to Brazil and 69 percent support nationally.

News of the win was splashed across the local media.

"Rio -- the marvelous and Olympic city in 2016," exulted O Globo.

"I am so very happy. The people of Rio are very excited. This is the Latin American country best prepared to host the Games," said Marina Flores, an Argentine resident of Rio.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Rio de Janeiro state governor Sergio Cabral were overjoyed when the decision was announced in Copenhagen.

"It's unbelievable, overwhelming, spectacular," beamed Cabral after his city won the final round of voting by 66-32.

Lula, whose country will also stage the 2014 football World Cup, said history had been made.

"Today, Rio and Brazil presented their case to the IOC and they said an overwhelming 'yes.' It's an historic day in the life of Brazil," he said.

"I'm 63 and have seen many things in my life and thought I could never get emotional but suddenly I'm crying more than any other person."

Their enthusiasm was matched by Brazilians back home, with most expressing pride over the city's selection and hope the Games would bring much-needed investment and development.

"I'm very happy. I hope that the Olympics will bring development and economic growth as well as (improve) security and transportation," said a 20-year-old Daniel credit analyst.

Ricardo Chaves, a 47-year-old accountant, echoed hopes "for security and transportation to improve in the city, because the daily life of the Carioca is very difficult."

Rio is known for chaotic traffic, an overwhelmed public transportation system and a high crime rate -- 6,000 people were murdered in 2008.

The challenges the city must overcome to be ready for the Games are not insignificant, but Mayor Eduardo Paes said the bid was "realistic."

Transportation issues are expected to be among the most pressing for the city to address, with many of the Olympic sites around 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Olympic village.

More than a third of the Rio budget for the Games will be devoted to improving the transportation system, which has been neglected in the years since Rio lost its title as capital to Brasilia in 1960.

"This is a great opportunity for Rio," said musician Cintia Lobato. "The city is impoverished and it needs the Games, which could spur development if they are well managed."

Brazil's economy was expected to grow between four percent and six percent next year as it helps push Latin America out of recession, according to a recent report by the International Monetary Fund.

An official study estimated that the Games could generate 56 million dollars and two million jobs by 2027.

Some naysayers have pointed out that the city benefited little by hosting the Pan-American Games in 2007, but most were simply overwhelmed by the moment.

"Who wins? We do, my children do, my grandchildren do!" said Saul Trindade, 43, who joined the dancing masses to celebrate the win.

In Washington, US President Barack Obama, who had fought fiercely but unsuccessfully to bring the Olympics to Chicago, congratulated Brazil for becoming the first South American country to host the Olympics.

He said he told the Brazilian president that US athletes "will see him on the field of competition in 2016."

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