Congrats Rio for the Olympics Victory!

rio.span.600.1Justice has been done to South America. Rio De Janerio had got the chance to host 2016 Olympics. The runners – Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo should have prepared for the defeat as South America never hosted Olympics so far. Why should the same cities and countries keep on hosting the grand global game again and again? Those who have never played the host should be given a chance. The Olympics is not just games but also development. By denying to those who never tried it before is denying their right to development.

Congrats Rio and all the best for the grand success of the game.

Boria Majumdar writes in The Times of India (6 October 2009)

Shock and bewilderment greeted Chicago’s first round exit from the 2016 Olympics bid process in Copenhagen, despite backing from the world’s most
powerful man. That’s what makes the choice of Rio more interesting and relevant. On one hand, Copenhagen set aside all cliches that suggest that sport and politics do not mix. On the other, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was portrayed in an improved light even as it moved on to newer pastures and newer markets.

The Olympic movement has long been criticised for being insensitive to demands of the global South. That the games have never before been staged in Latin America and Africa is evidence. It has been said that the hosting of the summer Olympic games represents the ultimate marketing initiative, where state leaders stake a claim to the ‘premier division of the global urban hierarchy’. Here, the global West has more often than not outbid the global South. This explains why Nelson Mandela, despite leading Cape Town’s cause in 1994, suffered a first round loss at a time when the Mandela charisma was at its height.

When we pit this history against the principles enshrined in the Olympic charter universalism, global harmony and equality the choice of Rio looks perfect. Also, by going to Rio, the Olympic movement can tap into a giant market that is just about to realise its potential. With Brazil having witnessed unprecedented economic growth in recent times and with infrastructure already half built for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the business opportunities that will open up in the run-up to the 2016 Olympics are endless.

Rio was a runaway winner. It polled 66 votes to Madrid’s 32 in the final round. While the Obama factor resulted in bookmakers backing Chicago as the favourite, the scandalous history of the 2002 Salt Lake City games, the chaos surrounding the summer games at Atlanta in 1996 and the perennial fight between IOC members and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) over distribution of television subsidy resulted in Chicago starting with a huge handicap that even President Barack Obama failed to negate. USOC’s demand that it be given 15 per cent of television subsidy, which it continues to receive, has created murmurs in the IOC backrooms for years. For the first time rebellion against the Americans is out in the open. That Chicago managed to poll 18 votes in the first round is a tribute to the effort put in by the president and the first lady against all odds. It is also proof that US dominance in world sport in finally a thing of the past. The Chinese proved it in Beijing by topping the gold medals count. Rio has done the same at the administrative level by winning the 2016 bid.

The Rio win draws attention to the truth that charisma campaigns aren’t the deciding factor after all. Following Tony Blair’s success in Singapore four years earlier, when he almost single-handedly won the games for London defeating Paris in a nailbiter, charisma campaigns by leading global celebrities came to dominate Olympic bidding. Chicago, with some of the biggest names in its team, raised speculation that celebrity charm could pull it off. Delaying the signing of the host city contract, considered sacrosanct for any claim, the Americans were convinced that Oprah Winfrey and the Obamas would do the job for them. Finally, the old boys club has delivered a royal snub. It has shown that content and emotion matter more than star power; the world can only thank it for that.

Whether or not Rio can pull off a stunning show is anybody’s guess. This is more so because the challenges facing the developing world are often more difficult to meet. However, with models to emulate, developing nations can surely bask in the euphoria of a good job done for the time being. For example, Seoul, which had a strenuous time leading up to the games in 1988 in view of the change of guard in Korea, managed to successfully harness the event for the first time to address environmental concerns, a standout aspect of the Rio bid as well. Since then, environmental issues have always received importance. They even occupied centre stage in Sydney when the games were christened ‘Green Games’.

While celebrating the turn towards Brazil and Latin America, there’s a thought for India. We are the only remaining BRIC member country that’s still to host the games. Can we realistically hope to bid for 2020 or 2024? With a successful Commonwealth Games 2010, the Olympic doors will surely open for India. But there are issues of accountability and responsibility. With under-preparedness in Delhi staring us in the face, an Olympic bid seems a million miles away. But if Rio can turn the tide in a little under seven years since the start of the Lula presidency in 2002, there’s hope. With just under a year to go for the Commonwealth Games, it is time we prepare to meet the challenge.

The writer is senior research fellow, University of Central Lancashire.

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