Nearly 50,000 people cheered in celebration when Rio de Janeiro was announced as host of the 2016 Olympics, jumping and shouting in a Carnival-like party on Copacabana beach.
A huge roar was heard at the famed beach the moment International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said the words “Rio de Janeiro” to announce the winner in Copenhagen on Friday.
As popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and football great Pele celebrated in Denmark, the Cariocas, as Rio citizens are known, raised their arms to celebrate on Copacabana, frantically waving flags and hugging each other.
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 sobbed later in a news conference when describing how important the victory was for the country.
“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.”
The party in Rio was expected to go on well into the night, and officials said the crowd would easily surpass 100,000 people.
“This is huge for Rio and for the entire country,” said 67-year-old Sueli Ferreira, wearing a hat with the Brazilian colors — green, yellow, white and blue. “It’s going to be good for the economy, good for the people. This gives us hope that things will be better here.”
The Cariocas danced to samba as confetti was launched into the air in front of a massive stage set up for the victory celebration.
A banner half the size of a football field — with Rio’s logo, an image of the Christ the Redeemer statue and the words “Rio Loves You” — was displayed.
“I loved it that they selected Rio. I really wanted that to happen,” said 9-year-old Matheus de Melo Ferreira, wearing a bright yellow Ronaldinho jersey. “I’ll get to see an Olympics from up close, it’s going to be wonderful.”
The Cariocas had been anxiously awaiting the result, taking advantage of a sunny day to watch the announcement on two big screens set up on the beach. Live concerts with popular artists had been entertaining the crowd since early in the morning, and the traditional Salgueiro samba group kept the party going.
Rio finally won the bid after failed attempts in 1936, 2004 and 2012.
The games will be the first held in South America and 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.
Brazil ians feel 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 people 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 which is well-known for its natural beauty and fun-loving people but also for its violent crime and many slums.
Violence has always 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 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.”
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.