AS/COA Online | Rio Wins Battle over Olympics Bid

Candidate countries made their cases and the die has been cast: Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Summer Olympics, making it the first South American city to host the Games. As the clock counted down to the October 2 announcement, competition grew between two contenders in the Western Hemisphere, Chicago and Rio.

Vying cities sent top leaders—including U.S. President Barack Obama and his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva—to stump for the International Olympics Committee (IOC) in Copenhagen Friday. But, in the end, Obama's home city was the first eliminated. "Chicago's marketing muscle clearly was no match for the sentimental sway of Rio," said Milwaukee's Journal-Sentinal in an article accompanied by an image that shows the disappointed faces of Chicagoans. Tokyo was the next city counted out, leaving Madrid and Rio in the running. The Brazilian city was declared the resolute winner, pulling in 66 IOC votes to Madrid's 32.

Buzz around the Olympics announcement built over the course of the week, particularly after Obama made a u-turn on an earlier decision not to go to Copenhagen. The First Lady and Oprah Winfrey joined him to campaign for Chicago in Denmark. Reuters’ Left Field sports blog contemplated whether the “Obama effect” would give the Windy City the necessary boost to come out the winner.

Yet the popular Lula showed he could make an impact, too. The Brazilian leader told delegates: “For the others it is just one more Olympics.” He took a road less traveled in pushing Rio's Olympic candidacy, traveling to several African nations in hopes of securing their support for his country's bid. Moreover, Rio’s bid coincided with Brazil’s much-touted emergence as a global economic player and regional leader. The country rose out of recession in September, making it the first Latin American country and one of few G20 countries to do so. At a time of political crisis in Honduras, deposed leader Manuel Zelaya chose the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa as a place to seek refuge, catapulting Brazil into playing a starring role.

Even some Chicago natives backed Rio’s efforts. “Rio is the ‘Marvelous City.’ Chicago is the ‘Second City’,” said website in its breakdown of why Brazil should host the Games. “Rio has naked people dancing. Chicago has chubby people eating.”

But others argued Brazil may not be ready. The IOC would declare Rio the victor “[i]f life is fair,”wrote  TIME. Still, the article notes stumbling blocks when Rio hosted the 2007 Pan American Games, including the failure to build promised roads and lay a metro line. New Yorker magazine chose to run a story four days before the IOC announcement about the gang violence that plagues the city, reports Foreign Policy’s Passport blog. O Globo cried foul and published its own report on Chicago's gang woes.

COA's Eric Farnsworth comments that Brazil will undoubtedly need to face up to its need to invest in infrastructure, social inequity, and gang violence issues."But there is no question that the Games will now give Brazil a boost, a jump start in ways that Rio needed anyway," says Farnsworth, who writes that the IOC's selection of Rio "is a fitting acknowledgement by the international community that Brazil’s time has arrived."