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Olympian samba in ‘Lula’land
Brazil is on track to host the 2016 Olympics, but it must also focus on developing more world class athletes

Yes we créu!”, may sound like a cliché – especially to all those North Americans who have been pre-occupied with the razzmatazz of “Yes, we can”. But this was one occasion they couldn’t; make Chicago win the bid to host the 2016 Olympics, that is. And this happened despite Barack Obama himself staking his reputation behind Chicago’s bid.

Anyways, the more interesting development has been w.r.t. to the winner – Rio de Janeiro, a city famous for sun and sin, which got chosen ahead of Chicago and Tokyo. Even more shocking was Madrid’s lost of 32-66 in a direct contest between the two in the final round of voting. It’s for the first time that any Latin American country will be hosting Olympic games. The IOC’s choice of Rio de Janeiro makes the emergence of this “backyard of the United States” quite evident.

What came as an added advantage for Rio was the ongoing preparation for 2014 FIFA World Cup in the country. Brazil has always been over-enthusiastic about football. And this has acted as amajor shot in the arm for its bid for the Olympic games. Since most of Brazil’s infrastructure and games venues are under a major overhaul for the FIFA World Cup, the city seems pseudo-ready for Olympics.

But it seems that this “backyard of the United States” was also preparing itself quite well “behind the veil.” To win the 2016 games for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil spent almost $50 million. Rio will spend an estimated $11.1 billion to build the facilities and infrastructure for the Olympic venues. So much so that Brazilian president Lula da Silva spent two days in Copenhagen and also wrote personal letters to the 106 voting members. He had each letter hand-delivered by an ambassador. Obama’s effort was quite measured in comparison, as he made a special appearance at the last moment.
Along with Lula, soccer legend Pele and Olympic champion swimmer Cesar Cielo were also there to urge IOC members. Lula da Silva said in his appeal to IOC delegates, “It’s not possible that it be in England in 2012 and in another European country in 2016 ... It’s not fair that Brazil, one of the 10 biggest economies in the world for 30 years; that Brazil, one of the world’s industrialized countries, a nation that has demonstrated its love for sports; it’s not fair that Brazil not be chosen.”

Europe has already hosted 30 Olympic games, while Asia has five. Oceania has hosted two and North America has bagged 12, including eight in the US alone. Rio also hosted the Pan American Games in 2007, which has led to a lot of positive change in the city. Even the local public support was higher for Rio as per the IOC poll. Around 67% locally supported Chicago, 56% locally supported the Tokyo and 85% locally supported the Games in Rio and Madrid.

Lula knows that along with a huge games infrastructure, Rio needs a complete re-fabrication of its transportation system. To ease the chaotic traffic of the city, Rio is planning to make roadways through granite mountains (from Ipanema to Barra da Tijuca). Rio also plans to upgrade its bus rapid transit or BRT systems. With the poverty graph moving southwards and offshore oil deals paying off the county well, things are indeed looking up for the company. Out of the total planned investment of $14.4 billion, around $11.5 billion will be spent on building/upgrading infrastructure. As per Brazil’s sports ministry, the games are expected to rake in 120,000 jobs each year across Brazil until 2016 and an additional 130,000 jobs per year for the following 10 years.

The biggest predicament for this nation now is preparing its athletes, especially in the country that is known as Holy Grail of football, but not so much for other sports. China spend millions on development of its athletes, while UK is doing the same for the London Olympics in 2012. Just like China, Brazil will want to showcase its growing might to the world in every possible way through these Olympic games. And an inspired performance by its own athletes may just be the icing on the cake it needs.

By:- Sray Agarwal

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