After the tightest Olympic bidding battle for years, Rio de Janeiro finally emerged as dramatic winner of a cliff-hanging vote by the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen.
(Pictured: Carlos Arthur Nuzman, President of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and of Rio 2016 Bid Committee with Chris Frost and Sion Rapson of World Sport Destination Expo)
Olympic president Jacques Rogge finally produced the slip of paper bearing the 2016 host at 18.30pm local time in the Danish capital. That single gesture ended a 17-month bidding process and rewarded a mountain of work both out in public and behind the scenes.
Almost as dramatic as the winner was the process of the rounds. Chicago, despite the stirring efforts of President Obama and the First Lady, crashed and burned in the first round; Tokyo fell in the second round - leaving Madrid and Rio de Janeiro for the final duel.
The process began on 16 May 2007, when the IOC asked national Olympic committees to nominate 2016 host applicant. On 13 September 2007, the IOC announced seven applicant cities: Baku, Chicago, Doha, Madrid, Prague, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. On the basis of a working group report the executive board decided on 4 June 2008 that Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo should go forward.
By 12 February 2009, they had submitted candidature files and then came the evaluation commission inspections followed by formal presentations to the executive in Lausanne on last June 17-18.
Four candidate cities meant a potential maximum three rounds of voting with IOC members from a bid city/country excluded. That, with one suspension and two absentees, meant 95 votes available in the first round with a simple majority to be pursued.
All four cities had one final opportunity to state their cases to the IOC before the vote.
Chicago went first. United States President Barack Obama flew in hours before the opening of congress and flew back out immediately after wrapping up the presentation. First Lady Michelle had already been in town for two days meeting, greeting and hoping to influence IOC voters.
Both addressed the IOC movingly but clearly their words fell on stony ground. The Obamas were still in the air when Chicago’s humiliation was announced by Rogge.
Tokyo laid heavy emphasis on an eco-friendly Games and solid financial guarantees. Rio meanwhile – led by President Lula – sought a historic first hosting for South America. Last week it addressed a key concern of the IOC – the lack of accommodation – by pledging to build a further 20,000 rooms if its bid were successful.
Rio has been hitting the campaign trail hard to establish itself not just as an iconic city but as a world leader in sport tourism. It will be a key exhibitor at the forthcoming World Sport Destination Expo, which will be co-hosted alongside the FIFA 2010 World Cup.
A victorious Paulo Senise, Executive Director of Rio Convention and Visitors Bureau: “Our unified approach to sport tourism - combining the efforts of the Brazilian Government with that of the State, City and the private business sector has brought about demonstrable success.
“We received great plaudits as hosts for the Pan American Games and will work tirelessly to become even greater hosts to the 2014 FIFA World Cup - and now the 2016 Olympics! We are hugely looking forward to the unrivalled promotional platform that WSDE will provide our great city and the opportunity to show to the world that Rio means business.”