The fate of golf in the Olympics remains to be determined, but if the sport is added for the 2016 Games it will be played in Rio de Janeiro.
After three failed bids to win the Games in 1936, 2004 and 2012, the Brazilian city finally will get to host the quadrennial event. The International Olympic Committee voted today in Copenhagen, Denmark, making Rio the first South American city to host the Summer Games. Rio was selected over Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago. Even with the last-minute stumping efforts of President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, Chicago was stunningly ousted in the first round of voting.
On Oct. 9, the IOC will consider adding golf to the Olympic schedule beginning in 2016.
As popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and soccer great Pele celebrated in Denmark, the Cariocas, as Rio citizens are known, raised their arms to celebrate on the beaches of Copacabana, frantically waving flags and hugging one another.
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, a soul and the passion of Brazil’s people.”
The beaming Brazilian leader, who sobbed later in a news conference, said the result was so important that it would be OK if he were to die now.
“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.”
When the Olympics come to South America in seven years, they 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 think the Games have the power to transform the entire region, promoting social integration and leaving a lasting legacy.
Winning the 2016 Olympics means more than the right to host the prestigious event. It means Rio and its 6 million residents likely will benefit from the billions of dollars potentially available through new investments.
The government has promised significant improvements throughout Rio to get it ready for the Games seven years from now, and the Cariocas hope they will benefit from the preparations in a city known for its natural beauty and fun-loving people but also for its violent crime and many slums.
Violence always has 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 security.
Other concerns included a shortage of hotel rooms and challenges to guarantee effective transportation, but officials affirm that everything will be in place ahead of 2016.
Brazil is relying on a strong economy to stand behind its $14.4 billion budget for the Games – the largest among all bidding cities. The billions of dollars that will be spent prompted some local criticism.
There was a huge budget overrun during the Pan Am Games, and critics have been concerned it could happen again during the Olympics. Officials said they learned with the Pan Ams and won’t make the same mistakes.
“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.”
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.