This seems a pretty good decision: Rio to host 2016 Olympics
COPENHAGEN – 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.
While I’m quite supportive of Obama’s desire to reform America’s image and world standing, he seemed to be over playing it in his bid for the Olympics. Though he was far from the only national leader to have made a personal bid with Japan’s newly elected Yukio Hatoyama also making a bid in person. And lest you have any wayward views about the Olympic committee being of and for the people, consider this data point:
the presence of 89-year-old former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch helped secure vital votes. [For Madrid]
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.
Still, despite the evident cronyism, the Olympic committee couldn’t have picked a better city. Just as the 2008 Beijing Olympics were a symbolic coming out for China, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro will help mark Brazil’s rapid rise to the center stage. This was perfectly demonstrated only last week when the US & China went with the G20 over the G8 because it includes countries like Brazil. Brazil is the 5th most populated country in the world, though only recently has begun to turn that to its strength under Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. It has a modern economy that seems to have withstood the worst of the great recession, and if they can get their environmental concerns under control, they will be able to take their place as one of the most important 2nd tier countries in the world, alongside the EU countries, just below China and the USA. This also bodes very well for the region, as the evidence seems to suggest that economic development is closely tied to regional development, and that when you have 1-2 countries really surging ahead (as S.Korea and Singapore did in SE Asia in the 1980’s) the rest of the region will be pulled into their slip stream, like a well disciplined cycling team, and benefit immensely. Though this depends on their own acceptance of the importance of free or low barriers to trade, and economic integration. The country best placed to take advantage of all this would be Venezuela. However, Chavez, for all the good he has done for the poor and resisting power from a corrupt, power hungry elite (and compared to them, Obama hasn’t a worry in the world with the Beck/Palin crowd) seems determined to turn his country inward and backward. Likely he will still be there in 2016, scowling and spitting at Brazil, but unable to hide his jealousy of their rapid rise to wealth and prominence.
So, good job IOC. Maybe I’ll even have to buy a ticket. Would be a great excuse to visit a region I’ve come to be fascinated by.