Rio Erupts In Celebration With 2016 Olympics

By Dialogo
October 02, 2009

Nearly 50,000 people erupted in celebration when Rio de Janeiro was announced host of the 2016 Olympics on Friday, jumping and cheering 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. 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 commemorate 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 and a soul." The beaming Brazilian leader sobbed later in a news conference when describing how important the victory was for the country. "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" in English — was displayed. Tourists, women in bikinis and children all mingled in celebration on the beach after the announcement was made. "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 featuring popular artists had been entertaining the crowd since early in the morning, and the traditional Salgueiro samba group was on hand to keep 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 statue. Brazilians — especially the 6 million Rio citizens — feel the games will have the power to transform the entire region, promoting social integration and leaving a lasting legacy. The government has promised significant improvements throughout Rio to get it ready for the games seven years from now, and the Cariocas are hoping 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 public safety. Rio successfully hosted the Olympic-style 2007 Pan Am Games, when no significant incidents were reported among participants and the 700,000 visitors. And the fact FIFA has chosen Brazil to host the World Cup was likely seen as a vote of confidence. Brazil is relying on a strong economy to stand behind its $14.4 billion budget for the games — the largest among all bidding cities. However, such expenditure has prompted some local criticism. "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." Most of the venues are already in place, and the majority of the competitions will take place near some of the city's upscale beaches. The opening and closing ceremonies will be held at Maracana Stadium, while the athletics events will be at Engenhao Stadium, which was built for the Pan Am Games and will have its capacity temporarily increased from 45,000 to 60,000. In addition to new venues, Latin America's largest nation is also expected to get a huge boost in tourism and new jobs.