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Rio expects thumbs up from olympic committee

September 24th, 2009

2016citiesWhen Rio de Janeiro announced its third bid to host the Olympic Games, chances of success seemed very slim.

Problems like urban violence, chaotic traffic and pollution appeared to indicate that the Brazilian city stood little chance against major rivals from the industrialised world with a longer tradition of hosting large sports events.

However, Rio approaches the Oct 2 vote by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Copenhagen as a favourite for the 2016 Games alongside Chicago, with Tokyo and Madrid the other candidates.

‘Everyone was expecting at some point a major screw-up by Rio. But that never happened, and the result was the verdict from the (IOC) evaluating commission, which regarded the ‘carioca’ project as ‘very high quality’,’ one bid official told DPA.

It would be the first Olympics in South America, barely two years after Brazil hosts the 2014 football World Cup.

Taking the Games to new territories – or rather new markets – is one of Rio’s trump cards. Rio has stressed the convenience of bringing the Olympics to an emerging economy and 400 million people.

But there is more to the bid than this ‘geopolitical’ argument.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has put all his charisma and his global political clout in the service of the bid, besides giving full financial backing.

Lula has lobbied before Olympians and politicians and will be in Copenhagen on election day, convinced that Rio has very good arguments before the IOC.

‘In Brazil, we have 15,000 kilometres of dry borders with South American neighbours. These are 400 million people who could not travel to Europe or Asia for the Olympic Games but who will head for Rio by car, in a plane or by boat. Rio had never been so close,’ he said in April.

Rio’s technical plan did not hide problems but also highlighted the positive social impact the Olympics would have on the city.

Accommodation is a classic example of creative solutions within the overall proposed budget of $11 billion.

Hotel beds are far below IOC requirements and Rio 2016 executive secretary Carlos Roberto Osorio told DPA it was not realistic to propose construction of new hotels that would presumably never be used again after the Games.

‘That is why we opted to build three villages – one for the media, one for the athletes, and one for technical officials – and to make the most of accommodation in large cruise ships,’ he said, guaranteeing the required 48,000 beds.

Osorio also said that ‘not one question was left unanswered’ by Rio when the IOC evaluating commission came to town in late April.

Other Rio lobbyists include football legend Pele, who welcomed the IOC inspectors in Rio, and the elderly Joao Havelange, a long-time IOC member and FIFA boss 1974-98.

Havelange, who would be 100 years in 1916, wrote to key IOC voters asking them to vote for Rio. He said recently he was convinced of having secured at least 20 votes.

With these letters in hand and with Lula in command, it would no longer be surprising if Rio de Janeiro was indeed picked by the IOC.

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