Rio de Janeiro to host 2016 Olympics


Rio de Janeiro has been voted to be the host city of the 2016 Olympic Games, it was announced today.

The Brazilian city, which proposed investments of $11.1 billion in preparation for the games, won today in balloting by the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen, beating Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago.

It will be the first time the Games have ever been held in South America and the decision has been greeted, predictably, in true carnival style as thousands of Cariocas, as Rio residents are known, danced and shouted in delight on Copacabana beach in front of a big stage and screens that showed the vote live.

Television images from Copenhagen showed an emotional President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who campaigned intensely for the bid, hugging other members of the Rio campaign.

Chicago was the first city eliminated in voting, despite the unprecedented support given to the bid by President Barack Obama and the first lady. Tokyo lost out in the second round.

Chicago had been considered the odds-on favourite to win the right to stage the 2016 Games, after Mr Obama became the first sitting US president to address an IOC session, yet his appearance was to no avail as the first round produced a shock result.

The IOC's members chose the winner in insuccessive rounds of secret balloting.

Prior to the voting, President Lula made his pitch to the committed, raising the emotional stakes in his direct appeal to the IOC to stop favouring Europe, North America and Asia and take the Games to South America for the first time. "This is a continent that has never held the Games," he said. "It is time to address this imbalance. The opportunity is now 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."

President  Obama took a huge gamble in flying overnight to the Danish capital to make a personal appeal to the IOC on behalf of Chicago. "I've come here today to urge you to choose Chicago for the same reason I chose Chicago nearly twenty-five years ago, the reason I fell in love with the city I still call home,” he said.

His eloquent speech to the 95 members eligible to vote in the first round, following an emotional address by first lady Michelle Obama, were the cornerstone of the Chicago presentation.

The first lady had been in the Danish capital for two days to lobby IOC members for their votes. She made her own appeal, citing her early Olympic memories of sitting on her late father's knee to watch the exploits of gymnasts Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci and athlete Carl Lewis.

In its presentation, Madrid offered to stage a passionate, cosmopolitan Games in 2016. Madrid boasted a heavyweight line-up including King Juan Carlos, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Japan's newly elected prime minister Yukio Hatoyama also flew in to urge a vote for Tokyo.