Brazil takes home the gold

Oct. 5, 2009, midnight | By Lauren Kestner | 14 years, 1 month ago

Shock and disappointment swept the crowd gathered at Daley Square in Chicago when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) eliminated Chicago, one of the favorites for hosting the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, in its first round of voting.

Chicago's loss marked an international movement to rejuvenate South America's flagging global standing with a chance to host the world's most celebrated sporting competition. IOC members approved Rio de Janeiro's Olympic bid in the final round of voting, restoring national pride to thousands of hopeful Brazilians congregated on the city's Copacabana Beach.

Brazilians celebrate on Copacabana Beach after learning that Rio de Janeiro will host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Picture courtesy of The New York Times.

An American victory seemed likely, if not inevitable. A powerhouse of Chicagoan dignitaries, including President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Olympians Michael Johnson and Nadia Comaneci, talk show host Oprah Winfrey and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, assembled in Copenhagen, Denmark to convince the committee of Chicago's strength as a candidate for the 31st Olympiad. But Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's campaign to hold the first South American Olympic Games and "inspire the 180 million young people on the continent " tugged at the heartstrings of the committee members, eclipsing Michelle Obama's emotional reminisce of the Olympic's role in strengthening the bond shared with her now-deceased father, a victim of multiple sclerosis.

Speech analysts later questioned the sincerity of the First Lady, who claimed the athletic prowess of Olympians inspired her and other disadvantaged children living in Chicago to think that "maybe, just maybe, if I worked hard enough, I, too, could achieve something great." What listeners originally extolled as a heartfelt anecdote of the Olympic's role in strengthening family bonds and promoting equality among today's youth was later revealed to be a much exaggerated version of the truth designed to manipulate the committee's emotions. Obama identified "sitting on [her] dad's lap, cheering on Olga and Nadia [and] Carl Lewis" as "some of [her] best memories," but she was 20 years old when Lewis won his first medal.

Lula da Silva's speech to the committee was less anecdotal but ultimately more convincing than those delivered by the Chicago delegation. He reminded members of the IOC that "we are the only ones that never had this opportunity," undermining the appeals made by Chicago, Tokyo, Japan and Madrid, Spain, who have hosted the Olympic Games eight times, three times and one time respectively. Lula da Silva also assuaged fears that Brazil is poorly equipped to fund the games, pointing to Brazil's burgeoning economy, ranked 10th in the world, and its successful management of the 2007 Pan American Games.

We should put aside our bitterness over Chicago's early elimination and congratulate our South American neighbors, who deserve a chance to shine on an international stage. After all, Lula da Silva promises the Brazilian Olympics will be an "opportunity to feel the warmth of our people, the exuberance of our culture, the sun of our happiness."

Lauren Kestner. Lauren Kestner loves Trader Joe's chocolates, cheesy television soap operas, summer trips to Lake Anna, coffee ice cream from Coldstone Creamery, hikes at Northwest Branch and shopping at Heritage. Playing soccer for Blair or her MSC club team and running at the gym consumes much … More »

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