2016 Olympics: Will Rio crash the Obamas' party?

The host city is chosen today – with the Brazilians tipped to snatch victory. James Corrigan reports on a hot competition
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The Independent Online

There will be no exit polls giving Barack Obama the wink in Copenhagen this evening, no aides running up to whisper in his ear "we've just taken New Jersey". There will not even be any concession speech from his rival, paving the way for him to make his own victory call.

No, when Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, opens the golden envelope some time around 6pm and names the host city of the 2016 Olympics, the most powerful man on Planet Earth will just have to stand tall and grin widely whatever the result. Welcome to Election Day – Olympic style.

Who will take the flame from London? That was the question obsessing each and every of the movers and shakers in the Danish capital last night as they declined the usual human requirements of sleep and self-dignity to try to schmooze their influence on the secret ballot.

The bookmakers believe Obama's presence – not to mention that of his wife and Oprah Winfrey – may be enough to swing it Chicago's way, although websites who claim to be experts in Olympic vote-offs have continued to ascribe Rio de Janeiro the favourite's tag. Yet even the supposed dark horses have attracted money that would call itself wise.

Certainly, Tokyo and Madrid are anything but no-hopers. Sebastian Coe, the engineer of the winning London bid, says: "I think this is closer and tighter than 2012." In Singapore four years ago, London beat Paris by 54-50 in the fourth round of voting. Obama may be adept at elections. But how good is he on coin flips? The most important decision in sport could really come down to one wavering member making a split-second decision. Here The Independent tries to make his or her job that little bit easier.


Proposed: dates 22 July to 7 August.

Budget: £2.4bn.

Local support for bid (IOC survey): 67 per cent. National support: 61 per cent.

Pros: Forgetting Obama's persuasive ability and the picturesque quality of the waterfront, the Chicago bid has another sure-fired head-turner on side – money. With the IOC currently paranoid about shortfalls – the poor dabs have already had to vow to bail out Vancouver for next year's Winter Olympics – the dollar sign is now more important than ever. The US TV rights have yet to be awarded past 2012 and the American networks would pay significantly more than the $2bn (£1.25m) they have for Vancouver and London if Chicago was hosting. Obviously, the marketing opportunities would also multiply. Furthermore, the bid has recovered a lot of ground in the last month with the city council finally guaranteeing to underwrite any cost run-overs. Chicago is the "safe hands" vote.

Cons: American resentment is alive and well within the IOC. If it isn't the long-running dispute with the United States Olympic Association over its extra share of TV and marketing revenues, then USOC recently also had IOC temperatures boiling when announcing the launch of its own TV network. Factor in this with IOC members not being allowed to visit candidate cities any more because of the Salt Lake bribing scandal and any US antipathy is understandable. The US has lost a lot of influence within the IOC.It does not have any representatives on the executive board at the moment. The bid is privately financed as well and has the lowest budget of the rivals. That might ring a few alarm bells.

Famous supporters in town: Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey

Odds: 8-13 favourites (William Hill).

Rio de Janeiro

Proposed dates: 5 to 21 August

Budget: £9bn.

Local support for bid (IOC survey): 85 per cent. National support: 69 per cent.

Pros: The sentimental vote. South America has yet to host an Olympics and there were few arguments when the Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said recently: "It's time. None of the other cities needs to host an Olympics. Brazil does." Indeed, President Lula and his Government have made a huge splash in this race and in the event may even out-Obama the US. This has been an impassioned bid and after the success of Beijing, Rogge and his cohorts are in the mood to create another legacy. The US Networks could have few complaints either, with Rio just one hour ahead of New York. Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup so the majority of the concerns will be addressed then. Rio's beaches do not really need mentioning.

Cons: Crime is a big problem, with the murder rate at an unrecognisable percentage compared to the other candidates. If that is a predictable worry, then so are those focused on the infrastructure. The budget of £9bn is much larger than any other, which only highlights the amount of preparation work to be completed. Even if venues are completed, they are more spread out than those of the rival bids, requiring transportation improvements. Evidently, there is uncertainty everywhere. In these cash-strapped times, will the IOC be prepared to take the risk? In one sense the 2014 World Cup underlines the question mark. Raising sponsorship funds will not be as straightforward and the brunt of the marketing work will have to wait until just two years before the Games begin.

Famous supporters in town: Pele, President Lula.

Odds: 7-4.


Proposed dates: 29 July to 14 August.

Budget: £3.5bn.

Local support for bid (IOC survey): 56 per cent. National support: 55 per cent.

Pros: The IOC loves to be seen as pro-active and with a bid built around green issues Shintaro Ishihara, the Tokyo governor, declared it "will save Planet Earth". Just to emphasise his point, the award-winning author yesterday added "2016 could be the last Olympics because of global warming". All very persuasive as, to a lesser or a greater extent depending on your priorities, is the fact that crime and the financing are not a problem. Has hosted the Olympics before (in 1964) and plans to use the legacy aspect nicely by employing many of the old venues. The "compactness" of the Tokyo Games has also been stressed, with all but one of them within five-mile radius of the city centre. The bid has been understated, which many in the IOC have appreciated.

Cons Understated to some, without passion to others. The Japanese have refused to become involved in any hype and when this is put alongside the worrying IOC survey which reported that only 56 per cent of Tokyo residents were supportive of the bid, the concerns about them not wanting it enough are all too prevalent. Can the Japanese create the desired buzz? The Chinese did, but the proximity of the 2008 Games may work against Japan as the IOC seeks to go far and wide. The only one of the candidates to have previously hosted the Olympics. So they can hardly claim that it's their turn.

Famous supporters in town: Shintaro Ishihara, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.

Odds: 12-1.


Proposed dates: 5 to 21 August.

Budget: £3.4bn.

Local support for bid (IOC survey): 85 per cent. National support: 86 per cent.

Pros: If it came down to how much the locals want it then Madrid wins hands up on the IOC's own survey. Some 85 per cent of residents are in support of the Games taking over their city for 17 days, although that is perhaps because they recognise their city has most of the venues in place. The bid team claims 77 per cent are either up or being put up and as so many of the IOC members are regulars in this popular sporting capital the boasts need no substantiation. Juan Antonio Samaranch, the former IOC supremo, will doubtless give it anyway and, despite being 90, the old boy still has his favours to call in.

Cons: It will be hot in August and this tends to negate the beauty of Madrid. Then there is the fact it is situated in Europe, just like London. Realising the IOC's reluctance to revisit a continent immediately (the 2010 Winter Olympics is in Russia, which mean three Euro Games in a row) Madrid has tried to present itself as the "Hispanic" option. But this has inevitably led to tensions with Rio, which bubbled over this week when one of the bid's bigwigs labelled the Brazilians as "the worst" of the four candidates. That outburst may work againstMadrid, as may its reliance on Samaranch. Then there is their political heavyweight. King Juan Carlos may be royalty but he's no Obama.

Famous supporters in town: King Juan Carlos, President Zapatero. Odds: 10-1.

How the vote works

After each of the four cities has made an hour-long presentation to the IOC (45 minutes of videos and speeches from politicians and personalities and then a 15-minute Q&A) the 100-plus IOC members will be given an electronic console on which to press their vote. For the first vote, member(s) of the competing countries are not allowed to vote. Rogge will then be told if any city has achieved a majority (ie 50 per cent plus one). If none has, Rogge will announce the city which gained the lowest number of votes and it will be eliminated. From the second vote the member(s) of competing countries will be allowed to vote and the same system will be used until one city has a majority.