By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – The race to host the 2016 Olympics is far from over with less than two weeks until the final votes are cast and the result announced in Copenhagen on October 2.
The latest poll by www.GamesBids.com, considered one of the most accurate gauges of how votes are likely to go, places Rio de Janeiro marginally ahead of Chicago, with Tokyo in third place and Madrid well behind in fourth.
President of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, has suggested it is an unusually tight race and that the winning margin may be just two or three votes, making Rio’s timely ascension to favorite look all the more crucial.
When the final four candidates were announced, it had been widely considered to be a battle between Chicago and Tokyo. However, with last year’s 2008 Games in Beijing making a return to the Far East unlikely in the near future and President Obama’s aloofness during recent meetings with the IOC damaging the strength of their respective candidacies, Rio’s chances have become considerably greater.
Brazil’s response to the financial crisis and increasing levels of investment in the country have also significantly improved their case over the three other candidate cities, and money predicted to come in from pre-salt oil discoveries should also help enormously.
Also in Rio’s favor is the fact that Jacques Rogge will be stepping down from his position in 2013 after the London Olympics and may want to leave a lasting legacy at the IOC, which giving a first ever Olympic Games to a South American country could provide.
GamesBid.com’s analysis suggests that Tokyo’s bid has weakened the most, due in part to the 2008 Beijing Olympics but also as a result of its high costs of living, an index in which Rio scores well for its inexpensive transport, commodities and accommodation.
Having not even made the shortlist for the 2012 Olympics it is a testament to how far the Rio team has come this time around, and some impassioned speeches along with the unbridled support of President Lula – banking on a strong legacy when his tenure ends next year – have combined to propel them into the top two.
The city itself remains somewhat divided on whether or not the Games would be a good thing for Rio with some areas of the city also requiring the kind of investment that hosting would require. Many of these concerns have been built into the bid however, and transport and crime issues are two items that the city leaders will have to tackle should the bid prove successful.
All eyes will be on Copenhagen on October 2 when the results are announced.
To watch Rio’s new promotional video for the 2016 bid, check out the official website.