In August and September 2016, Rio de Janeiro will be the focus of world attention as it becomes the first South American city to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
On the morning of 2 October 2009 a crowd gathered on Copacabana Beach to hear the result of the bidding process to host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic games. The decision was being made at a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Copenhagen. Four cities were on the shortlist. Along with Rio they included Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo.
Ever since the shortlist had been announced in June 2008, Rio had been considered the outsider, but it had been slowly gaining momentum in the final months and weeks and, while still an outsider, might now come an honorable second to the hot favorite, Chicago. But news from Copenhagen suggested that Rio had made a stunning and passionate pitch to host the games, which would not just be for Rio and Brazil, but for all of South America.
The first round of votes brought an unforeseen shock. Chicago was out, followed shortly after by Tokyo. There was now a nerve-racking wait of over an hour until the final announcement. The crowd on Copacabana, or following on TV and radio, started to believe something special was going to happen.
Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, could be seen on Copacabana’s giant screen holding the envelope. What he said would change the future for Rio. “The games of the 31st Olympiad are awarded to the city of…” There was a slight pause as Rogge opened the envelope and turned the card to the camera, “Rio de Janeiro”.
The crowd on Copacabana erupted. What might have seemed a wild dream a decade earlier was now a reality, Rio de Janeiro, the Marvelous City, would be hosting not only the FIFA World Cup in 2014, but also the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016. If Brazil had always been the “country of the future”, it appeared its time had finally come.
It took a few days for the news to sink in, but Rio and its organizing committee quickly got to work. There would now be massive investment in the creaking infrastructure of the city. Everything from transport and sanitation, to the games facilities themselves, would be built or upgraded.
The majority of the Olympic and Paralympic activities will take place in four zones: Copacabana, Barra, Maracanã and Deodoro.
Maracanã, which held the World Cup Final in 1950, and will again in 2014, is to host the opening and closing ceremonies. The João Havelange Stadium, the Engenhão, which hosted the 2007 Pan-American Games, will see its capacity increased to host the athletics. Even the Sambódromo, home to the Carnival parade, will host the end of the marathon and the archery.
Rio will make full use of its natural beauty. Copacabana Beach will be put to use for the beach volley-ball, long-distance swimming and the triathlon; the rowers will have the backdrop of the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas to compete against, and the yachtsmen and -women will have Guanabara Bay.
On the site of the motor-racing circuit in Barra da Tijuca, not only will the Olympic Village be built, but also the aquatic, hockey and tennis centers, as well as the velodrome. In total, the 2016 Olympic games will feature 28 sports in 36 disciplines.
The dates for the diary, if you are planning on coming to Rio for the Olympic Games, is 5–16 August 2016, while the Paralympic Games will take place from 7–18 September. More information at www.rio2016.com.
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