Rio's triumph


Acclaimed for its soccer, Samba music and carnivals, Brazil earned the right to join the elite list of Olympic host nations with a convincing victory over its rivals. The vote for Rio de Janeiro over Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago as the host for the 2016 Olympic Games marked a big shift in the International Olympic Committee’s stance as it finally acknowledged the ability of a South American nation to organise the world’s biggest sports extravaganza.

Hosting the Olympic Games is a matter of great pride for any nation, regardless of its size and economic stature. No wonder then, a no-holds-barred battle was fought for the 2016 edition, with even the American President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle dashing over to the Danish capital to present Chicago’s case. Madrid and Tokyo too tried their best, but ultimately it was Rio’s brio that prevailed at the IOC summit.

Reports from Copenhagen suggest the IOC members were swayed by the Brazilian city’s strong presentation, with the country’s president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva making an impassioned plea to break the pattern of the Games shuttling mostly between Europe and North America. The 45-minute presentation might have been the clincher but the fact remains that heading off to Copenhagen, Rio had an edge over its rivals. Madrid was disadvantaged by its proximity to the London 2012 Games while a similar issue nailed Tokyo’s bid, with Beijing having hosted the 2008 edition. The United States was less than impressive when it played host to the 1996 Games in Atlanta; besides, the Salt Lake City scandal of 1999, when votes were traded for favours, continues to dog that nation.
With a 66-32 verdict in the final round over Madrid, Rio has plenty of reasons to celebrate but when the dust settles down, the city will realise that the real task is ahead of them.
Winning the bid is just the start of the journey — one that will stretch the nation’s capabilities to its limits. Brazil’s track record might not inspire confidence in this regard but the fact that the nation will be hosting the World Cup soccer championship just two years before the Games will work in its favour, at least on the organisational front. Painful the progress surely will be, but the sheer joy at the end of it will certainly make the effort worthwhile for a nation throbbing with the spirit of sport.

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