Rio Olympic win latest step in Brazil transformation

RIO DE JANEIRO, Mauricio Rabuffetti- This Brazilian city's historic win to host the 2016 Olympics follows a long, impassioned and at times frustrating campaign by Latin America's largest nation to reposition itself on the world stage.
The effort by Brazil's most spectacular city is seen as part of a broader effort in which Brasilia is also aiming to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council and take a lead role in global efforts to slow climate change.

Rio Olympic win latest step in Brazil transformation
The sports-obsessed football power with a record five World Cups will now have the opportunity to organize and host South America's first Olympic Games after a successful campaign in which President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva never tired of repeating the slogan: "This is Brazil's turn."
"Brazil needs these Olympics," said a teary-eyed Lula, who enjoys sky-high popularity of over 80 percent in his seventh year in office, after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded the games to Rio.
"These people deserve that opportunity."
As many as 100,000 people echoed his enthusiasm, partying to the infectious beat of samba music on the sands of Rio's Copacabana beach after learning of their city's victory.
"I don't have the words to describe it -- it's a huge joy. Brazil deserved it, it was the country's turn," said Rafael del Castillo, a tourism student.
Musician Cintia Lobato hailed the "great opportunity" presented by the massive sporting event, noting that "the city is impoverished and it needs the Games, which could spur development if they are well managed."
Lula, who has already scored a massive sports triumph in bringing the World Cup back to Brazil in 2014, has positioned himself in global forums as the great articulator of the developing world's aspirations.
The choice of Rio as host "is not enough, but it helps in creating positive images of a country that has resources" and wishes to muscle onto an international stage already crowded with major powers, international relations expert Amado Cervo told AFP.
"Lula has done very important work on three external fronts," the analyst said, citing the president's efforts on multilateralism, the "internationalization of the Brazilian economy" as Brasilia has encouraged more foreign investment and his stature as de facto face of emerging economies.
The evolution of the BRIC countries -- named for emerging world powerhouses Brazil, Russia, India and China -- "was largely a result of the political will of the Lula administration," said Cervo, a professor at the National University of Brasilia.
For Lula meanwhile, the Games will give Brazil some much-needed global clout.
"I always thought that there was something that Brazil lacked. We are a country that has been colonized. Because of this fact, we had an inferiority complex, an obsession that we weren't important," he said Friday.
The president had long reminded other leaders that his country, the 10th-largest economy in the world with 190 million people, was gaining its rightful place among nations.
Partners and rivals in the Olympic competition were quick to congratulate Lula, a friend of the United States but also of top Washington adversaries Iran and Venezuela.
But as the praise poured in, Brazil also undoubtedly faces a daunting challenge to prove it can handle the heat of an Olympic spotlight.
The test for Rio, the O Globo newspaper said, is enormous, with "seven years to achieve what hasn't been done in 50." Brazilian media put the price tag for the event at about 16 billion dollars.
Transportation issues are among the most pressing for the city, with many of the Olympic sites some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Olympic village.
More than a third of the Rio budget for the Games will be devoted to improving the transportation system, neglected in the years since Rio lost its title as capital to Brasilia in 1960.
The government hopes some of the revamp will be completed by the time Brazil hosts the 2014 World Cup.
But the Olympics are a bigger challenge, especially security in a city known as much for its picturesque scenery as for its endemic violence in which 6,000 murder cases were registered last year.
Lula has vowed to overcome the challenges.
"I will begin to work for the Olympics tomorrow -- not after tomorrow, but tomorrow," he vowed on Friday.

Sunday, October 4th 2009
Mauricio Rabuffetti

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