Friday, October 2, 2009
Rio de Janeiro was chosen Friday as the host site of the 2016 Olympic Games, brushing aside an unprecedented personal appeal from President Obama and the first lady on behalf of their home town of Chicago.
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, speaking in Copenhagen where the body voted, opened a ceremonial envelope and read off the vote of IOC members naming Rio as the winner. A huge crowd that had gathered in the Brazilian city sent up a roar of approval when the announcement was made.
The winner beat surprise finalist Madrid in the last round of voting. Chicago was eliminated in the first round of voting at the meeting of the IOC in Copenhagen, and Tokyo was eliminated in the second. In awarding Olympic bids, the IOC holds rounds of voting until one city receives a majority.
Rio's victory marks the first time a South American city has been chosen to host the games. "It is a time to address this imbalance," Brazil's charismatic president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, told the IOC's members before they voted. "It is time to light the Olympic caldron in a tropical country."
Hours before the votes, the Obamas appeared before the IOC to directly make the Chicago pitch, marking the first time a standing U.S. president had appeared before the panel to back a bid.
Obama told IOC members that Chicago "is that most American of American cities, but one where citizens from more than 130 nations inhabit a rich tapestry of distinctive neighborhoods."
He referenced his own election as a moment when people from around the world gathered in Chicago to see the results last November and celebrate that "our diversity could be a source of strength."
"There is nothing I would like more than to step just a few blocks from my family's home and with Michelle and our two girls welcome the world back to our neighborhood," Obama said. "At the beginning of this new century, the nation that has been shaped by people from around the world wants a chance to inspire it once more."
Michelle Obama recalled growing up on Chicago's South Side and sitting on her father's lap "cheering on Olga and Nadia, Carl Lewis and others for their brilliance and perfection."
After the Obamas' comments, the U.S. delegation fielded questions from committee members, and at one point the president jumped in. He said he envisioned that the Chicago games would allow the United States to restore its image as a place that, at its best, is "open to the world."
Thousands of people who had gathered in downtown Chicago hoping to celebrate were instead left in stunned silence after learning the Windy City was the first city eliminated. Video of the voting in Copenhagen was carried on huge television screens in the Daley Center, set up to carry what many had hoped would be approval of Chicago to host the games.
Chicago had been considered a front-runner in the competition for the games, and momentum for its bid appeared to have picked up in the final days before the voting.
But the last two times the games were based in the U.S. they were marred by controversy. The 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics were sullied by a bribery scandal and logistical problems, and a bombing hit the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Madrid's success in reaching the final round came after former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch made an unusual appeal for the Spanish capital, reminding the IOC members as he asked for their vote that, at age 89, "I am very near the end of my time."
From NPR and wire service reports