COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made an impassioned plea to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday, urging them to award an overdue first Games to both Brazil and South America in 2016.
Speaking for Rio de Janeiro, Lula said Brazil was the only one of the world’s 10 most powerful nations to have never staged the Games. “I honestly think it is Brazil’s turn,” he told the IOC session which will choose the 2016 hosts from Chicago, Madrid, Rio and Tokyo later on Friday.
”It is South America’s bid,“ he added. ”This is a continent that has never held the Games. It is time to address this imbalance.
”The opportunity now is 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.
“Rio is ready. Give us the chance and you will not regret it.”
The charismatic Brazilian president and other members of the Rio bid team constantly stressed that European, North American and Far Eastern nations had held a virtual monopoly on the Modern Games since it was inaugurated in 1896.
The emphasis was clearly aimed at gaining an advantage over Chicago, in particular, seen by most observers as their most powerful rival after U.S. President Barack Obama flew in to make the case for the Windy City he regards as home.
Rio showed a telling graphic indicating the venues of previous Summer and Winter Games. Bid leader Carlos Nuzman said 30 had been in Europe, 12 in North America, of which eight in the United States, five in Asia and two in Australia -- but none in South America.
The slick Rio presentation took maximum advantage of the city’s exotic and spectacular location, showing film of beaches, mountains and colorful and vibrant celebrations among the people.
Brazilian Central Bank governor Henrique Meirelles assured the IOC of the growing strength of the country’s economy, saying it was the world’s 10th largest and was forecast by the World Bank to be the fifth largest by 2016.
He said Brazil had weathered the recession well and had experienced eight percent growth in the second quarter of this year.
Sergio Cabral, governor of the state of Rio, said Brazil was effectively tackling its high crime rate and had staged the PanAmerican Games in 2007 without incident. “There will be no surprises in Rio for you,” he said. “I promise we will deliver a safe and secure Games.”
Editing by Clare Fallon