Rio 2016: The Olympic Games head to South America
Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The decision from Copenhagen today sent crowds on Rio's Copacabana into raptures, and for the second time in a few years, Brazil celebrated being awarded a major international sporting event.
The 2014 FIFA World Cup will now be followed by the 2016 Olympic Games, which means Rio is in the same position as Mexico City back in 1968/1970, and Munich in 1972/1974, hosting two huge events in the same cycle. The only exception is the order, since Rio gets the FIFA World Cup before the Olympic Games (of course, the FIFA World Cup is shared across Brazil, not just Rio, but the point remains). Still, the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games are the biggest sporting events in the world, and so Brazil will be in a prolonged sporting spotlight for the next 8 years. (when I first posted, I'd completely forgotten about these two - losing my memory, clearly! However, can I escape by saying that since the "professionalization" of the events, no city has hosted two events consecutively?)
The defeated applicants - Chicago falls in round 1
The Rio decision left three very disappointed cities - Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago. In that order of elimination, too. The voting process, which saw one city eliminated in each of four rounds, saw Chicago fall at the very first hurdle.
This was the big surprise, and I'll be honest, a big disappointment for us at The Science of Sport. Both Jonathan (a Chicago resident, of course) and I had supported the Chicago bid, and so we're disappointed in the vote for personal reasons. For anyone who loves sport, the Olympics are such a highlight that it would have been great to share in the buildup and maybe even get involved in the preparation for the 2016 Games (the one occasion where sports science is in demand in in the lead-up to major events. Not that the US has this problem - here in SA, we need that stimulus far more!).
Chicago was one of the favorites in what was one of the closest races in Olympic bidding history. The two front-runners were Chicago and Rio, and when Chicago was eliminated first, there was shock and amazement from Chicago and from the delegates in Copenhagen. Among the public, however, there were a few protests leading up to the decision - people who feel that the spending required on the Games cannot be justified when other social services are deemed inadequate. Justifying billions on sport is always a tough task to those not passionate about sport. Others see it as a platform for change, an economic stimulus, a force for positive change. Perhaps Jonathan will give us a local perspective on the response to the decision a little later.
In my sports management work, I've been involved at different levels with a couple of bids, and know people who have headed up bids for other major events, and I will say that the only thing you can ever know with certainty is that you know nothing about how the voting will go. The typical bid process requires a committee to jump through all kinds of hoops, to meet certain requirements in an attempt to make the bids as uniform and objective as possible. How much money, guarantees on the money, commitments to facilities, rooms for tourists, the Olympic village, and so forth.
But the reality is that the bid often swings on personal issues, voting blocs and alliances with future promises or previous favors being called in. So you can meet every criteria, and even exceed them, but you can't guarantee success. Sentiment plays cold, hard cash and business sense, which is NOT as simple as seeing which city can spend the most money or raise the highest sponsorship (as people have tended to oversimplify it) - the business sense is often a function of how much the rights owner (the IOC in this case) is assured of by the host city, and this goes beyond the sponsorship and government/business backing.
And both sentiment and business are often trumped by politics, and politics is personal. The result is a voting process that is always debated - just look at the 2012 decision, where Paris was a 'sure thing' until the last moment, or any vote before it.
But onto Rio and 2016
But onto Rio, which did have a great bid - you can read a really great summary of the four different bids here. It was comfortably the largest financial bid - close to $14 billion split between operating expenses ($2.82 billion) and capital costs of $11.1 billion (Chicago had the largest operation budget at $3.8 billion, incidentally). I suspect some of the capital costs will have to be absorbed into 2014 planning and construction, since both will really have to be done simultaneously - resources are going to become very lucrative in Rio!)
For Rio, a big selling point was "distribution" of the Games, because it had never been to South America, and so 2016 will be the first time. This is quite an amazing stat, actually.
Brazil will be a fantastic place between 2013 and 2016, with one major sporting event following the next. The culture, the energy, should make for a fantastic Games. It will be interesting to see how Brazil uses the Games to prepare its athletes - we have seen China spend millions on its athlete development, and Great Britain have done the same leading into 2012. Brazil are not a classic powerhouse in Olympic sport (you can be sure the soccer at the 2016 Games will be a highlight, though), and so I'm really interested to see what hosting status does for their high performance sports strategy.
I'm sure there is more to come, maybe some opinion from Jonathan on the reaction in Chicago, maybe more related to the voting process (as is typical), and the reaction of some elite athletes - one thing that is for sure, there'll be a lot of 15 to 18-year old prospective Olympic athletes who are marking their calendars tonight..."Rio, here I come!"
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Friday, October 02, 2009
Rio 2016: The Olympic Games head to South America