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Rio's Olympic bid strikes the right chord

Roger Mosey | 09:56 UK time, Monday, 5 October 2009

A member of the Games Organising Committee here said to me just ahead of Friday's vote on the 2016 Olympic host city that this felt like another rite of passage for London.

It's more than four years since we knew the Games were heading to the UK - and it's now not much more than 1000 days to the Opening Ceremony. The IOC's decision means it'll be the Mayor of Rio who'll be receiving the Olympic flag in the stadium in Stratford when the London Games are over, and the next stage of the journey is to South America.

The concerts being planned to capture the music of the past and future hosts will have to span China and Brazil, and the Cultural Olympiad can enjoy a touch of samba.

Handing over to the first Olympics in South America will, I think, make a small but important difference to London 2012.Riocelebrates.jpg
The result was relayed to crowds on Rio's famous Copacabana beach

For four recent Olympiads the hosts were in the European or English-speaking heartlands: Barcelona in 1992 handed to Atlanta and then to Sydney and Athens.

London is now in the middle of a movement that is unambiguously about crossing continents and cultures - and it was significant that Seb Coe combined the themes of internationalism and youth in his congratulations to Rio. With a World Cup next year in South Africa, the club of major event hosts has more members - and London can renew the global ambitions that were in its bid.

Events in Copenhagen also reminded us just how well London did when it won the bid in Singapore in 2005. I confess I spent much of the preceding months, when I was head of BBC television news, telling colleagues to keep calm because the Games were heading to Paris.

I remembered the hype and the disappointment of the bids in the previous decade from Birmingham and Manchester - and, hey, Brits are used to losing on the international stage. But a few days before the vote it was apparent that London's message was getting through, and the vision was polished by a brilliant pitch in the conference hall.

All the bidders last week had learned from that, though to a neutral observer there were some crucial differences. Chicago had always planned to have an emotional presentation but watching President and Mrs Obama - the transcript of what they said is here - the question was whether it was the right sort of tug on the heartstrings.lula.jpg
Emotion gets the better of Brazilain president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the wake of Rio's triumph

Nobody could question how important Chicago is to them, but the President's statement that "there is nothing I would like more than to step just a few blocks from my family's home, with Michelle and our two girls, and welcome the world back into our neighbourhood" was clearly not as much as a rallying cry as he'd hoped. By contrast, Brazil's President da Silva is also a man of strong emotions but there was also a relentless focus on what a South American games would mean for the continent and the international community.

We saw the killer graphic in their pitch: thirty Games in Europe, five in Asia, two in Oceania, eight in the United States and none in South America or Africa. So no matter how much Michelle Obama loved her dad or how nice it would have been for the Obama kids to walk to the stadium, there was both an emotional pull and logic in the Rio vision.

Just three years ago I was part of a BBC team in Beijing being given a welcome by Chinese government and broadcasters because of our role at the heart of the Games after theirs. It will be a pleasure for us to do the same with colleagues from Brazil as they head to London in the coming years. The Olympic map is being spread wide, and that must be a good thing.



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