First Reactions to Rio's Olympics Pick

The South American city has long been a tourist hot spot, but under more global scrutiny than ever, will it rise to the occasion?

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The selection of Rio de Janeiro as the host city for the 2016 Olympic Games on Friday sent Brazilians into wild public celebration. In a move that stunned many observers, The International Olympic Committee handily voted down Chicago's bid first, followed by Tokyo, then Madrid in a run-off round. South America will now host its first Olympics. Brazilian President Lula, a long champion of Rio's bid, was overcome by the results, tearing up and telling reporters: "Today I feel even more pride in being Brazilian than even I had ever felt before.” Commentators were quick to analyze the merits of the pick:

  • Brazil's Ascent: Several bloggers noted that the selection was indicative of the world community's acknowledgment of Brazil's increasing economic and political prominence. At Reuters, Stuart Grudgings makes the comparison to a previous telling Olympic suggestion: "Just as the Beijing Olympics of 2008 marked China's revival as a world power, Rio 2016 may be seen as a stamp of approval on the South American giant's coming of age." His evidence comes in Brazil's stunning rebound from decades of poverty and political crises, coming so far as to pay back IMF loans early and offer the fund an additional $10 million on top. The IMF's observation that Brazil was helping to lift Latin America out of recession did not escape Christopher DeSota of the Huffington Post, either: "With this decision, it is clear that the IOC recognized, as so many others have in business and international politics over the past few years, particularly during this economic crisis, that Brazil has surged ahead as a hemispheric leader," seconded only to the United States in the region.
  • A Long Way to Go Yet: On the other side, writers pointed out that Rio isn't nearly in shape to host the games, and that getting there will take an enormous effort. One of the foremost issues complicating matters is that Brazil is also slated to host the World Cup just 2 years before the Olympics, in 2014. Time's Andrew Downie is cautionary at best: "So far, the indications are not great. The country was awarded soccer's big championship almost two years ago, but work has yet to start on the 12 stadiums needed for that spectacle. Meanwhile, a much-talked about bullet train linking São Paulo and Rio is yet to leave the drawing board. Many officials now doubt whether it will be ready in time for the World Cup. Brazil and Rio can party now and celebrate. But then it's time to roll up sleeves." The Guardan's Tom Phillips contrasted Rio's hype for their Olympics with the harsh realities that resulted from a previous international sporting event held in the city, the 2007 Pan American Games:  "The Pan American Games have brought virtually no long-term benefits to the city, despite the budget ballooning from R$500m (£176.5m) to R$5bn." Phillips concludes that Rio's increasing traffic problems and homicide-rate also pose enormous challenges in the run up to the Olympics.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.