Rio wins 2016 Olympics: Samba and joyous spontaneity hint at what's in store

Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Games victory unleashes a carnival at Copacabana beach.

Sergio Moraes/REUTERS
Residents on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach celebrate Friday after the city won the bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

The tens of thousands of people who turned out to see Rio win the right to host the 2016 Olympics were present at what could well be a prophetic microcosm of the actual event.

It was hot, chaotic, and a bit disorganized. But in spite of all that, the locals were their usual happy hospitable selves. They sang and danced, and the positive vibes the city is famous for won the day.

And that is probably how it will be in 2016. Disorganized but brilliant fun.

"People are going to find out what a wonderful city Rio really is," said Carlos Eduardo Cornelas, a bank employee who had striped down to his Bermuda shorts and flip-flops to come to the beach and take part in the festivities. "A lot of people are going to have a great time."

That great time was promoted by city and state authorities, who gave local employees the day off to come to Copacabana beach and watch the announcement ceremony on a big screen.

Wearing the yellow and the green

Many of them turned up wearing the national colors of yellow and green. The temperature was in the 90s, and there were more bikinis – tiny ones, of course – and shorts than real clothes.

A Brazilian rock star played an enthusiastic set to get the party started, but the biggest early cheer was when the live screen flashed "Chicago has just been eliminated." Another followed moments later, when it announced "Tokyo has just been eliminated."

When IOC president Jacques Rogge announced the final result 90 minutes later, the crowd went mad, and literally seconds later, the samba band started up and the crowd was singing a well-known samba song with the entirely appropriate refrain, "My heart is exploding with the greatest happiness."

Like any big event in Brazil, the affair quickly turned carnivalesque, dominated by emotional outpourings. People fell to their knees and some wept. Other danced, some screamed with joy. A massive flag roughly 6,000 square foot flag was unfurled bearing the message, "Rio Loves You."

No more second class

It was, according to President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the day Brazil left behind its second-class status and became a first-world country. Rio has lost many things in its long and checkered history, its capital status among them, Lula noted. For years, it has been adrift and looking for a role. Today it found its calling.

"You won't regret it," said Lula. Neither will the millions of competitors, officials and tourists. The trains might not run on time. But they'll have a great time waiting for them.

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