COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Olympics after the Brazilian city won a landslide victory over Madrid in the final round of voting on Friday.
International Olympic Committee members shocked everyone at the Bella Convention Center by eliminating favorites Chicago in the first voting round, despite the unprecedented personal support President Barack Obama gave the bid.
Tokyo were the next city to fall before the IOC backed Rio to become the first South American city to host the Games by a final-round margin of 66 votes to Madrid’s 32.
A few seconds after the announcement, an almost speechless Carlos Osorio, general secretary of the Brazilian bid, told Reuters: “Overwhelming, spectacular, unbelievable.”
Brazil is already preparing to host the soccer World Cup in 2014 and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, left in tears of joy by the announcement, said the country would have to work harder than ever to stage a Games they could be proud of.
“We are going to have to sleep less, think more and work more,” Lula said at a news conference.
“Now our term of reference is going to be work, work, work — work for Brazil to do better than any other time in its history.”
Chicago went out after polling just 18 votes in the first round, despite the eloquent speeches on their behalf made by Obama, the first sitting U.S. president to address an IOC session, and first lady Michelle Obama.
Madrid led the race at that stage with 28 votes, followed by Rio on 26 and Tokyo on 22.
Rio came close to polling an absolute majority in the second round with 46 votes, followed by Madrid on 29 with Tokyo going out on 20.
The final round was not even close.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told Reuters: “Rio was a great candidate.
“It was well worth the effort. Olympic sport goes this way sometimes. We had a very good result and there will be other opportunities.”
The announcement was delayed by several nervous seconds as IOC president Jacques Rogge struggled to open the envelope. “Like in every competition there can only be one winner,” Rogge said. “Tonight I have the honor to announce that the Games of the 31st Olympiad are awarded to the city of Rio de Janeiro,” Rogge said.
Carlos Nuzman, Rio bid leader, hugged President Lula, both in tears and said: “We did it, we did it,” and the Brazilian delegation broke into their “Marvelous City” song, waving flags and hugging each other.
Both finalists had staged impressive presentations, featuring heartfelt contributions from Lula for Rio and former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch for Madrid.
Lula persuaded members it was time to address the fact that South America had never hosted the Games.
The 89-year-old Samaranch, who ran the IOC for more than two decades, asked voters to take his age into account.
“I know I am very near the end of my days,” he said. “May I ask you to consider granting my country the honor and also the duty to organize the games in 2016?”
That tug on the heart-strings helped take Madrid into the final but could not prevent the Games going to Brazil.
Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann, John Acher and Owen Wyatt; editing by Paul Radford