Olympics

Rio de Janeiro gets 2016 Olympics

Rio de Janeiro will become the first South American city to host the Olympics after the International Olympic Committee voted to award the 2016 Games to the former Brazilian capital on Friday. The city of Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympics came to an early end after the city was eliminated in the first round of voting during the IOC's site selection meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Chicago eliminated in first round

By Charles Pelkey

Brazil's president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (3rd from right) celebrates with members of the Rio2016 organizing committee.

Brazil’s president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (3rd from right) celebrates with members of the Rio2016 organizing committee.

Photo: Agence France Presse

Rio de Janeiro will become the first South American city to host the Olympics after the International Olympic Committee voted to award the 2016 Games to the former Brazilian capital on Friday.

The city of Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics came to an early end after the city was eliminated in the first round of voting during the IOC’s site selection meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Chicago was one of four finalists vying to host the 2016 Games, along with Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. The IOC vote took place over three rounds, or until a candidate receives an absolute majority, with the lowest vote-getter eliminated after each.

Chicago received the lowest number of votes in the first round. Tokyo was eliminated in the second round, leaving Madrid and Rio de Janeiro to face off in the final round.

Results
First round:
Madrid, 28; Rio de Janeiro, 26; Tokyo, 22; Chicago 18
Second round: Rio de Janeiro, 46; Madrid, 29; Tokyo, 20
Third round: Rio de Janeiro, 66; Madrid 32
* Vote totals vary as representatives of eliminated countries are allowed to cast ballots.

Brazil was the only country of the four finalists that had never hosted an Olympic Games. The United States has hosted the Summer Games on five occasions, most recently in Atlanta in 1996. Spain hosted the 1992 Games in Barcelona and Tokyo hosted the 1964 Olympics.

Rio becomes the first South American country in history to host the Games and only the second Latin American country, following Mexico City’s 1968 Olympic Games. Only Africa remains as the only significantly populated continent not to have played home to an Olympic venue.

An artist's rendering of Rio de Janeiro's planned Olympic velodrome.

An artist’s rendering of Rio de Janeiro’s planned Olympic velodrome.

Photo: Rio 2016

Rio hosted the 2007 Pan-American Games, a largely successful event Olympic organizers said had served as a “dry run” for the 2016 bid.

The competition among finalists was fierce, with candidate cities’ presentations highlighted by those countries’ heads of state, including U.S. president, Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who was joined by Spanish King Juan Carlos and former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch in making the plea for Madrid.

In the end, Brazil’s populist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva emerged the victor, having taken a page from Obama’s political playbook, emphasizing that when it came his country’s ability to host the Olympics, Rio’s motto was “yes, we can!”

At the formal contract-signing ceremony, Lula da Silva said he felt less than confident going into Friday’s vote particularly when he saw “Obama’s plane, Air Force 1, landing in Copenhagen. ‘We’ve lost it,’ I told my wife.”

Overcome with emotion, Lula da Silva said he finally felt relieved enough to express his feelings.

“Before the vote, I was not brave enough to cry,” he said. “Now I can finally let go.”

In Chicago, mayor Richard Daley said that he was disappointed with the outcome, but did not predict that the city would immediately pursue another bid.

“I’m disappointed but you go on with your life.” Daley said, noting that a similar campaign for the 2020 Games is unlikely. “It’s already in this hemisphere, with Rio, and it would not make sense for an American city to try again in 2020. It’s in this hemisphere and they have to move somewhere else.”

The four candidate cities were among seven original applicants, which also included Baku (Azerbaijan), Doha (Qatar) and Prague (Czech Republic). The four finalists were named in June of 2008, with the final vote taking place in Copenhagen on Friday.

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