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Song of victory for Brazil’s marvellous city

October 3rd, 2009
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Pele

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Pele

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva stood at the front of the delegation about to deliver Rio de Janeiro’s merits as a potential Olympic host and suddenly found himself breaking into song with his compatriots.

Brazil’s tropical heart beat to the rhythm of Rio’s anthem, Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City), in chilly Denmark: ‘Marvellous city, full of a thousand charms. Marvellous city, the heart of my Brazil.’

‘Someone started to sing, I don’t know who. But we all sang,’ Rio bid deputy chief Carlos Roberto Osorio told DPA.

‘We all sang it – of course, Lula too. We were as if in a football locker room, lined up in twos. And that gave us the motivation to go in. We went onto the pitch, and I think we did well.’

The Rio team marched before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and made their case. Their result speaks for itself, after a 66-32 thrashing of Madrid in the final round of voting to bring the first-ever Olympics to South America in 2016.

Marvellous City gave way to a ‘marvellous presentation’, a model of how to make the most of every moment to put across a clear message without wasting any effort. Neither Chicago nor Madrid could say the same about their own presentations.

Eight hours after the song was heard in Copenhagen, Lula’s face was red and partly covered in a white handkerchief.

Brazil’s first-ever working-class president could not control his own emotions, weeping uncontrollably.

He stood one step from Jacques Rogge, who presides over an infamously elitist organisation, the IOC. The separation, though just one metre, could hardly have been bigger, but Lula managed to close the distance: ‘I want to thank Rogge for his affection, though the president is always very serious.’

And, then, Rogge Relaxed. Cidade Maravilhosa again rang through the room, sung by members of the Rio delegation, joined by quite a few Brazilian journalists. Then came the cry: ‘Lula, Lula.’

Never in the IOC history had the signing of a contract with an Olympic city been so festive.

Lula called Friday possibly the ‘most emotional’ day of his life.

‘The other countries came here with proposals,’ he said. ‘We came with our heart and our soul.’ The Brazilian leader threw his fist into the air.

‘We’re first class!’ Lula declared. ‘We wanted a chance to show that we are competent, that we can do things as well as Germany, the US, as any other country in the world. I hope we’re all alive in 2016 to hold the best Olympic Games on the planet.’

Lula, who has already announced he will not seek re-election beyond his current term, which ends Jan 1, 2011, denied that he had beaten US President Barack Obama, who came to Copenhagen to support his own home town Chicago’s bid.

‘When Obama’s plane arrived here, some colleagues said, ‘Ah, we’ve lost,” Lula conceded. ‘God wanted him to come and let us win anyway.’

It was not divine intervention but the Brazilians themselves who deserve credit for their victory, according to Richard Carrion, an influential IOC member from Puerto Rico.

‘Rio’s presentation was very good,’ he told DPA. ‘When it ended and we went to lunch, everyone already thought that Rio was going to win.’

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