The Olympic Committee meet in Copenhagen has been a frenzy of activity these past days. Each of the four candidate cities has tried to lobby at its best throwing around the weights of their respective political leaders and personalities. Several important lessons are to be learned.
No less than an ever smiling U.S. First Lady in the person of Michelle Obama swam through the rows of Committee delegates in search of their favourable votes. President Obama made a lightning visit to preside the Chicago Delegation at its final candidacy presentation. Both of the couple’s speeches filled the hall in the early morning hours with a heart touching appeal on the city where they lived their love and lives. Chicago was at that moment one of the favourites to host the Olympic Games 2016.
The Brazilian delegation could offer no less with President Lula da Silva up front. His appeal was based on a reasonable sentiment – South America has as yet never hosted the Olympic Games. Brazil demanded justice and the election of Río de Janeiro as Olympic host for 2016. Lula, too, spoke from the heart seeking recognition of his excellent track record in bringing Brazil out of poverty into the top 10 developed economies of the world.
The new Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, was present to seek another historic accomplishment to add to his own election. Japan’s Olympic proposal was probably the most solid futurist environmental project but cold reasoning had to have a good dose of emotions to make it work.
Finally, Spain had an overload of emotion and no less than the King & the Queen, Juan Carlos I and Sofía, leading the delegation of political leaders from the state government down to the city mayor, passing through the regional president. Even the opposition leader was there to give support. Never before had such unity been so visible amongst embattled political leaders in any issue. The Olympic candidacy of Madrid had brought them all together.
After the four excellent presentations that began at 8 a.m. with Chicago and closed at half past three with Madrid, all eyes the world over were set on the voting procedure the Olympic Committee follows for such selection process.
All bets seemed to place Chicago and Río de Janeiro as the favourites. Scarce public enthusiasm of the Tokyo population seemed to run against them. On the contrary, Spain’s all-out support went beyond the city limits of Madrid. Nevertheless, Spain realistically admitted that the weight of Obama’s presence could force them out at the first or second vote.
At the first casting, a great surprise! Chicago fell from the list. What did happen to make the committee members discard the American candidacy? Michelle Obama’s dream to see “her city” hosting the 2016 Olympic Games went into pieces. The American public watching the proceedings on TV went aghast. What happened to the Obama charm? It didn’t work this time.
With apparent logic, Tokyo went down next. All had thought that either Tokyo or Spain should have gone down first. No large crowds saw their city’s defeat on TV. Tokyo was living its hectic life as usual without the minimum shock of having been eliminated.
Not so in Brazil and Spain, where thousands massed around specially prepared scenarios to rally their respective candidacies. Perhaps, this is the essence of the Olympic spirit far beyond the perfection of projects and the profitability of investments.
The final call for vote had both delegations in suspense till 6:45 p.m. when finally Mr. Jacques Rogge, Olympic Committee President, unveiled the winner – Río de Janeiro.
The frenzy and boisterous joy of the Brazilian delegation contrasted with the dampened spirits of the Spaniards. However, as I see it both had won. Brazil and Spain were indeed sharing a turn in the tides of Olympic History.
For Brazil, the appointment of Río de Janeiro as seat of the 2016 Olympics is the gold medal that Lula da Silva deserves before he steps down from office in 2010. Properly handled, it is the opportunity not only Brazil deserves but also all South America. Furthermore, the U.S. supremacy, as President Obama stated at the U.N. General Assembly must be shared with others. The shift of the weight has begun.
For Spain, the sweet-sour defeat has a rather important teaching. For once, politicians from both major political parties – socialists & conservatives – were together in an effort and a dream. Biased opinions were set aside. Work was carried out by a team with a single objective, to make Madrid a better humane sports-loving city. If they went so far as to be the unpredicted finalist against one of the favourites, then working together must have been the bonding element that led them up the steps to victory. Why not learn the lesson and work together for the Spanish citizens who are always willing to support worthy endeavours?