Janeiro, October 3, 2009 — Nearly 50,000 people cheered in celebration
when Rio de Janeiro was announced as host of the 2016 Olympics, jumping
and shouting in a Carnival-like party on Copacabana beach.
A huge roar was heard at the famed beach the moment International
Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said the words "Rio de
Janeiro" to announce the winner in Copenhagen on Friday.
As popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and football great Pele
celebrated in Denmark, the Cariocas, as Rio citizens are known, raised
their arms to celebrate on Copacabana, frantically waving flags and
hugging each other.
Silva called the win a "sacred day" as he was interviewed in Portuguese
by Brazilian reporters in Copenhagen. Brazil's passion, he said, helped
Rio win the Olympics against Madrid, Chicago and Tokyo.
"The other countries made proposals," he said. "We presented a heart, a
soul, and the passion of Brazil's people."
The beaming Brazilian leader, who sobbed later in a press conference,
said the result was so important it would be OK if he were to die now.
"I confess to you if I die right now my life would have been worth it,"
Silva said. "No one can now doubt the strength of Brazil's economy, it's
social greatness, and our ability to present a plan."
The party in Rio was expected to go on well into the night, and
officials said the crowd would easily surpass 100,000 people.
"This is huge for Rio and for the entire country," said 67-year-old
Sueli Ferreira, wearing a hat with the Brazilian colors — green, yellow,
white and blue. "It's going to be good for the economy, good for the
people. This gives us hope that things will be better here."
The Cariocas danced to samba as confetti was launched into the air in
front of a massive stage set up for the victory celebration.
A banner half the size of a football field — with Rio's logo, an image
of the Christ the Redeemer statue and the words "Rio Loves You" — was
"I loved it that they selected Rio. I really wanted that to happen,"
said 9-year-old Matheus de Melo Ferreira, wearing a bright yellow
Ronaldinho jersey. "I'll get to see an Olympics from up close, it's
going to be wonderful."
The Cariocas had been anxiously awaiting the result, taking advantage of
a sunny day to watch the announcement on two big screens set up on the
beach. Live concerts with popular artists had been entertaining the
crowd since early in the morning, and the traditional Salgueiro samba
group kept the party going.
Rio finally won the bid after failed attempts in 1936, 2004 and 2012.
The games will be the first held in South America and will take place by
one of the most impressive backdrops — Rio's stunning beaches and famous
landmarks, including the Sugar Loaf mountain and the Christ the Redeemer
Brazil ians feel the games have the power to transform the entire
region, promoting social integration and leaving a lasting legacy.
Winning the 2016 Olympics means more than the right to host the
prestigious event, it means Rio and its 6 million people likely will
benefit from the billions of dollars potentially available through new
The government has promised significant improvements throughout Rio to
get it ready for the games seven years from now, and the Cariocas hope
they will benefit from the preparations in a city which is well-known
for its natural beauty and fun-loving people but also for its violent
crime and many slums.
Violence has always been one of the main concerns in awarding the
Olympics to Rio, but the IOC apparently trusted Brazilian officials'
guarantees that the city can provide the needed security.
Other concerns included a shortage of hotel rooms and challenges to
guarantee effective transportation, but officials affirm everything will
be in place ahead of 2016.
Brazil is relying on a strong economy to stand behind its $14.4 billion
budget for the games — the largest among all bidding cities. The
billions of dollars that will be spent prompted some local criticism.
There was a huge budget overrun during the Pan Am Games, and critics
have been concerned it could happen again during the Olympics. Officials
said they learned with the Pan Ams and won't make the same mistakes.
"If they do what they promised to do, it will be great," said
45-year-old retiree Edinalva Kzolw. "Rio can only benefit from this if
everything is done correctly, but here in Brazil you never know. I'm
hopeful on one hand and skeptical on the other."
Associated Press Writer Alan Clendenning in Sao Paulo and Associated
Press Writer Marco Sibaja in Brasilia contributed to this report.
Source: The Associated Press