Rio wins bid to be host city

Rio de Janeiro was selected by the International Olympic Committee Friday to host the 2016 Olympic Games. They beat out Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago.


AFP - Rio de Janeiro was named host of the 2016 Olympic Games on Friday as red-hot favourite Chicago, backed by US President Barack Obama, was handed a devastating, heart-breaking snub.

Rio will be the first South American city to stage the Olympics after seeing off Madrid in the final round of voting, which followed a tense final day of lobbying of International Olympic Committee (IOC) members.

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

Brazilian president Luiz Inacio 'Lula' da Silva, whose country will also stage the 2014 football World Cup and who gave a stunning speech at Friday's presentation, 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."

Rio's Olympics are set for August 5-21, 2016.

Chicago was sensationally eliminated in the first round after garnering a paltry 18 votes out of 94, quickly followed by Tokyo, the only city of the four candidates to have previously hosted the Games, in the second stage.

Chicago's defeat came despite the intervention of Obama, who had flown in on Friday morning to appear at the city's final presentation.

But even his powerful presence, as well as the energetic lobbying of his wife Michelle, failed to sway the members.

"One of the things that I think is most valuable about sports is that you can play a great game and still not win," a disappointed Obama said, back at the White House after a quick five-hour stay in the Danish capital.

"Athough I wish that we had come back with better news from Copenhagen, I could not be prouder of my hometown of Chicago."

Chicago bid chief Pat Ryan added: "We fought a good fight. Some you win, some you lose. That's the way it goes.

"I have no idea why we went out so early. The IOC members will have to ask themselves that question."

In Rio, tens of thousands of people partied on the iconic beach of Copacabana when IOC president Jacques Rogge revealed the winner.

Brazil football legend Pele was in tears.

"I'm a very emotional guy and I have been crying ever since I heard the result. This is a great moment not only for Brazil but for South America. In terms of how it compares to a World Cup this is like another goal," he said.

Henrique Meirelles, president of the Brazil Central Bank, said that they had managed to convince the IOC that they were sound financially.

"We were optimistic and very well prepared. This has been a lot of hard work but there is a lot more of that over the next seven years. Our economic situation played well." 

Madrid bid chief Mercedes Coghen, captain of the Spain field hockey team that won gold in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, accepted a painful defeat.

"I have a very sad reaction," said the 47-year-old. "That's the way it has got to be. It was a very good bid."

For Madrid the presence of 89-year-old former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch helped secure vital votes.

His plea that 'his days on earth were numbered' struck a chord for many of the members who owed their positions to him during his controversial but highly successful tenure.

The elimination of Chicago and Tokyo set up an intriguing head-to-head between two of the giants of sports administration - Samaranch and former FIFA President Joao Havelange, who looking far younger than his 93 years promised to invite people to a massive party in Rio in 2016 when he will be 100.

The Tokyo bid team were said to be shocked and stunned as they felt their message on improving the environmment, and placing the accent on youth, would play well.

Even an impressive turn by newly-elected Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama failed to convince members.

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