Rio de Janeiro has won the right to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, a decision that will set the games in South America for the first time.
“In every competition, there can only be one winner,” said Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee.
Friday’s announcement dashes the hopes of U.S. boosters ? President Barack Obama chief among them ? who had put their reputations on the line to help win the games for Chicago.
Word came from the IOC as the president and first lady Michelle Obama headed back to Washington, hours after making a last-minute appeal in Copenhagen for their hometown.
Their rival in the campaign, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, asked the Olympic panel to choose a country that has never gotten to host the Games.
“The opportunity now is to expand the Games to new continents,” Lula told the panel in his presentation. “Light the caldron in a tropical country, in the most beautiful of cities. Send a powerful message to the world that the Olympic Games belong to all people, all continents, and to all humanity.”
Chicago’s elimination was one of the more shocking defeats in IOC voting history. The city had long been viewed as a frontrunner.
But the emotional appeals from the Obamas fell on deaf ears in the European-dominated IOC.
The IOC’s last two experiences in the United States were marred by controversy: The 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics were sullied by a bribery scandal, and logistical problems and a bombing marred the 1996 summer games in Atlanta.
U.S. officials in Copenhagen did not immediately comment, and the word was greeted with stunned confusion and disappointment in Chicago, where thousands had gathered in Daley Plaza to hear the news.
In the final days of the campaign, Chicago’s bid appeared to be gathering both momentum and clout. As it made its way to Copenhagen, the city’s delegation picked up travelers from the U.S. Senate and the Obama Cabinet.
When Obama himself decided to go, it seemed like the wind was behind the U.S. bid. No one has better vote-counters than the president, and political wisdom held that he wouldn’t stick his neck out if there weren’t a very good chance of a win.
In the wake of the announcement Friday, though, his top aides were at a loss for answers.
“I’m sure there will be quite a bit of postmortems done on this,” said David Axelrod, the president’s senior political adviser, appearing on CNN, calling himself too “engrossed” in fathoming the politics of Washington to get involved in the politics in Copenhagen.
(c) 2009, Tribune Newspapers. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.