Visionary Brazil wins one for the underprivileged sporting world
1. In the end, vision, justice and forward thinking won. Not Tokyo, which has already hosted the Olympic Games and whose residents did not really want to host another one. Not Madrid, the capital city of a country that hosted the Games less than two decades ago, and which is in the heart of satiated Europe. And not Chicago, which represents a superpower that hosts major sporting events several times a year, and which, despite the fact that it was represented by a popular president, is still far from loved.
Not only did Rio de Janeiro present an impressive and visionary bid, it also came to Copenhagen in the name of an entire city, country and underprivileged continent. More than half a billion people have watched as Europe, North America and the Pacific Rim hosted all the Games - Summer and Winter, war and peace, communism and capitalism. Along with Africa - another continent that is discriminated against - a quarter of the world's population has been left out. The traditional argument has been that these places are not ready, that they are incapable of hosting such major events. Now South America has the chance to prove them wrong. In the 48 hours since Rio won the vote, the people of the third most populous city in South America have been celebrating with samba. But now it's time for them to get down to work, to prove they're up for the job. And assuming that South Africa hosts a successful World Cup tournament next summer, maybe it's time to start talking about holding the Olympics in Africa, too.
2. The one person who proved that he can't - election slogan notwithstanding - is U.S. President Barack Obama, who, for some reason, is considered a wizard. It's one thing to lose a vote, but to be eliminated in the first round was humiliating. What Obama's advisers failed to understand, however, is that the people doing the voting - members of the European royalty, quasi-racist aristocrats, oil-rich emirs, high-profile billionaires, former athletes and sporting wheeler-dealers who could teach Rahm Emanuel something about the art of politics - are never going to be overwhelmed by the leader of the free world. They're not impressed by a politician whose smile is as permanent as he hoped his country's right to host the Olympics would be. These people aren't worried farmers from Ohio, unemployed autoworkers from Detroit or computer programmers from Seattle; they are not going to be won over by slick PR and impressive speeches - even if the salesman is the current incumbent of the White House.
Rio had its own superstar, in the shape of Pele. At the age of 69, he worked like a madman to get his city selected; and he cried like a child when Rio won. If people of color are all the rage at the moment, then the king of the soccer pitch taught the king of the free world a thing or two.