COPENHAGEN, Oct 2 – Rio de Janeiro's dream of bringing the Olympics to South America for the first time became reality here on Friday when they won the vote to host the 2016 edition.
The Brazilian city saw off Madrid in the final round of voting after odds-on favourites Chicago, backed by a personal visit from President Barack Obama, had gone out in a first round sensation.
They were followed by Tokyo, the only city of the four to have previously hosted the Games, in the second round.
"It’s unbelievable, overwhelming and spectacular," beamed Rio Governor Sergio Cabral, while Brazilian football legend Pele was reduced to tears.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) members had earlier delivered a stunning snub to favourites Chicago and Obama.
In a sensational first round, the 95 eligible voters rejected a personal plea by the most powerful man in the world.
Obama had flown in on Friday morning to appear at the final presentation but even his powerful presence, as well as the lobbying of his wife Michelle, failed to excite the members.
"We fought a good fight and I am very proud of the team and the campaign," said bid chief Pat Ryan. "Some you win, some you lose. That’s the way it goes."
The American city was followed out by Tokyo whose pleas to host the Games for a second time fell on deaf ears.
The Tokyo bid team were said to be shocked and stunned as they felt their message on improving the environmment radically and placing the accent on youth would play well.
Even an impressive turn by newly-elected Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama failed to convince members.
Rio’s appearance in the final two is no surprise as they had consistently impressed in the past year and a stunning piece of oratory by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva at the presentation sealed their place.
He declared it was not only Brazil’s time but also South America’s as no country from the continent has previously hosted the Games.
Madrid, bidding to become the first Spanish city to host the Olympics since Barcelona’s successful 1992 edition, were seen to be rank outsiders and were as much as 16/1 with British bookmakers Ladbrokes earlier in the week.
Even Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had voiced concerns over the bid but he gave a solid performance at the presentation.
However, 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 which saw the Games become the modern and commercial titan that is is now.
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.
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil
Population: 6 million
Motto: Live Your Passion
Budget: 2.82 billion dollars for the Games, 14.4 billion dollars overall
Bid leader: Carlos Nuzman
Distances: Most events to be held within a 20km radius of the Olympic village
Public support: 85 percent in Rio, 69 percent nationally
Previous Olympics: None