By Philip Sever, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Last Wednesday (April 29) the International Olympic Committee arrived in Rio to discuss the city’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. The meeting began at the Copacabana Palace Hotel where the thirteen IOC members were met by the Governor Sergio Cabral, Mayor Eduardo Paes, the Minister for Sports Orlando Silva, the Minister for Tourism Luiz Barretto and the Minister for Cities Marcio Fortes, as well as the president of Banco Central (BC) Henrique Meirelles.
The thirteen delegates from the Commission are charged with evaluating Rio’s bid for the 2016 Olympics and to ultimately decide which is the strongest candidate city – Rio, Tokyo, Madrid or Chicago.
The IOC stayed in Rio until Saturday, when they moved on to the fourth and final city of the tour, Madrid. On Thursday they met with President Lula and the Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, who have both fully backed the city’s bid and went on an interpersonal charm offensive. In contrast, Barack Obama sent a video taped message to the delegates during their visit to Chicago, and Rio’s team hopes that the personal touch will not have gone unnoticed.
On Friday the IOC were taken on a tour of the venues where the games will be held, and Paes even took part in a running race with Nawal el-Moutawakel, an IOC member from Morrocco and herself a former Olympic gold medallist, whilst others were treated to a dribbling lesson from Pele.
After the photo opportunities Ricardo Leyser, a minister for the Department for Sport, together with 574 civil servants made a presentation about how the sporting venues and Olympic village will be constructed, providing assurances on funding and ticket pricing, and using both 2007s Pan American Games and the 2014 World Cup as crucial elements towards building the necessary infrastructure for the world’s greatest sporting event.
In his address Eduardo Paes reassured the IOC that, “We know how to conduct extremely complex operations which involve millions of people,” whilst others said their knowledge in staging events such as Carnival, the Pan American Games and Reveillon (New Years Eve) demonstrate Rio’s ability to host the Olympics.
The politicians also stated that Brazil’s stable economy which has staved off recession despite the world financial crisis is yet another reason why the games should be held here in Rio. The projected cost of staging the Rio Olympics is estimated at US $14.4 billion, but the long term benefits it would bring to the city are huge, not to mention the pride in hosting South America’s first ever Olympic Games.
Eduardo Paes made his own plea to the people, saying, “The possibilities are very great for Rio de Janeiro. This week I ask for the population to mobilize itself. They should fly the Brazilian flag in their windows and dress in Brazilian colours. This is an important chance to declare their love of Rio de Janeiro. Our job is to show why Rio is the most wonderful city in the world.”
Sergio Cabral summed up the strengths of the bid by simply saying, “In no other place in the world you will find a people so receptive, who really love to interact with people from all over the world.”