Rio selected for 2016 Olympics

COPENHAGEN (AP) - October 2, 2009

The International Olympic Committee's announcement Friday that Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Games reduced Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to tears again and again.

The popular and populist politician known as Lula sobbed into a handkerchief at the official news conference after Rio won a comprehensive 66-32 victory over Madrid in a third and final round of voting - putting the Olympics in South America for the first time.

He wept with emotion while sitting with Rio bid's team on the main stage during a final presentation of the city's case to IOC voters earlier Friday. And the tears also flowed when he was hugged and kissed by football great Pele minutes after the city was confirmed as 2016 host by IOC president Jacques Rogge.

"From the bottom of my heart I can say that this is the most exciting day of my life," said Silva, a two-time presidential election winner. "I can say that I cried during the presentation. Suddenly I was crying so much more than anyone."

Pele also sobbed as he exalted his president in a joyous melee of Brazilian bodies and flags, within touching distance of smiling rows of IOC members.

"His heart is in sport," the three-time World Cup winner told The Associated Press, the green, blue and yellow national flag draped around his shoulders. "We are together so we hugged. He is another person who always plays in a good team."

Rio's victory was undoubtedly a shared effort, though the winning team all honored their captain.

Rio 2016 secretary general Carlos Osorio described how Silva calmed his side's nerves before facing the IOC and a global television audience Friday.

"We were ready in line, exactly like in the FIFA World Cup," Osorio explained. "Then President Lula as the captain of the team gave the last words, words of encouragement. And let's roll."

The captain's message? "Let's stay calm, and stick with our plan."

That plan was to persuade voters that the games should come to South America for the first time.

"I honestly believe it is Brazil's time," Silva said during the presentation. "It is time to light the Olympic cauldron in a tropical country."

Brazil's emerging status as a world power - predicted as the world's fifth-largest economy by 2016 - demanded the country be rewarded for its hard work, and its growing importance in the changing landscape of global politics, he told Olympic voters.

"It will boost the self-esteem of Brazil, it will consolidate recent achievements, it will inspire new ones," Silva said.

The president had traveled the world in recent months telling all who would listen that Brazil needed the 2016 games, while rivals Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo merely wanted them.

Chicago wanted them so badly that its most famous resident, President Barack Obama, flew into Denmark for just a few hours to take the same stage shortly before his political ally.

"I saw him everywhere. I thought we had lost, we had lost because Obama came," Silva said. "I want to say that I am not the one who knocked down Obama. It wasn't Lula that won and Obama that lost, it was Rio that won."

And when Rogge read Rio de Janeiro's name, the tight-knit organizing team leapt to mob their captain, the calm center of a hugging, shouting mass.

The former trade union leader did not forget Rio's pledge to the IOC that it would start work Saturday on delivering its promises. Rio will spend $14.4 billion on operating costs and necessary upgrades to venues, accommodation and transport links.

"Our slogan is now: work, work, work," said Silva, whose presidential term ends in 15 months. "It is a historical challenge for us. We're not a second-rated country, we're a first-rate country."

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