Chicago’s Olympic hopes were dashed Friday when it was eliminated in the first round of voting for the 2016 host city, following a star-studded bid that featured personal appeals by President Barack Obama, the first lady and Oprah Winfrey.
Rio de Janeiro was chosen as the host out of the four finalists, making Brazil the first country in South America to host the Olympics since the modern Olympic movement began in 1896. That point was emphasized by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in his impassioned pitch for the hosting duties
A massive crowd, estimated to be 100,000 people by MSNBC, danced and celebrated on the beach in Rio as the announcement was made.
The rowdy crowd was a far cry from the scene in downtown Chicago just hours before, when thousands of hopeful city residents reacted in stunned silence after the early elimination of their city was broadcast from Copenhagen.
“There were a couple of seconds of silence. I think people didn’t’ quite understand what had happened,” said Chicago Public Radio reporter Lynette Kalsnes from Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago. “Then I actually saw a lot of jaws drop … [people] said they really thought the city would make it to the final two with Rio.”
In the run up to the vote, Sports Illustrated reported that some IOC veterans said this was the closest vote in recent memory. Most Olympic watchers had predicted a tight contest between Chicago and Rio de Janeiro.
But not everyone in Chicago was heartbroken by the result — a recent Chicago Tribune/WGN poll found that only 47 percent of residents wanted the city to win the bid.
Teams from the four finalist cities– Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo– delivered their final presentations this week to the 104-member International Olympic Committee. Spain, the United States and Japan have all hosted Olympic games in the past.
President Obama, who appeared with the Chicago presentation panel this week, was the first U.S. president to make an in-person appeal for a bid city.
Following that presentation, an IOC member from Pakistan named Syed Shahid Ali asked how difficult it would be for foreigners to enter the United States for the Games, reported the New York Times.
President Obama said the administration and State Department would make sure that all visitors would feel welcome.
“One of the legacies I want to see is a reminder that America at its best is open to the world,” he said.
The president had come under fire from Republican opponents for traveling to make the pitch in person at a time when issues like the economy and healthcare are on the minds of most Americans.
“As President Obama travels to Copenhagen to bring the Summer Olympics to his hometown seven years from now, Americans back home are increasingly concerned they won’t have a job seven months from now as they see more and more of their neighbors and friends lose jobs today,” Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said in reaction.
Chicago Public Radio’s Kalsnes said she heard mixed reaction to the president’s involvement.
“There were folks who thought he should be paying attention to health care, not doing any work for the Olympics,” she said. “There are a lot of other people of course since he’s from here, who really felt like he was going to make the difference…spirits got very, very high here.”
Senior presidential adviser David Axelrod reacted to the bid vote with disappointment but told Reuters he did not view it as “a repudiation of the president or the first lady,”
The other Olympic hopefuls also relied on star power of their leaders when possible. In the pitch for Tokyo, which was eliminated in the second round of voting Friday, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama pledged that the city could show games can be held in an environmentally friendly manner.
Madrid argued that 77 percent of the needed infrastructure for the games is already in place in the Spanish city, making it an ideal site.
Below are highlights from the bids, in the order they finished.
Gold Medal: Rio de Janeiro
Population: 6.1 million
Projected cost: $14.4 billion budget
Slogan: “Live Your Passion”
Pitch: Brazil will be first South American country to host the games. Rio promoted its natural beauty and because the country is hosting the 2014 World Cup organizers said the infrastructure would be in place. The bid had strong public and government support.
Population: 6.2 million in greater metropolitan area.
Projected Cost: $6.1 billion
Slogan: “Games with the Human Touch”
Pitch: Madrid touted its weather and culture, as well as a compact plan for the venues and housing and good public transportation access for viewers.
Population: 12.7 million in Tokyo; 34 million in the greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area.
Projected Cost: $2.8 billion.
Slogan: “Games at the Heart of City Life”
Pitch: Almost all of the venues would have been within within 5 miles of main stadium and the games would strive to be “green.” Japan has a history of successfully converting athlete facilities into apartments and condominiums after the Olympics.
Just missed the podium: Chicago
Population: 2.9 million, with a metropolitan area of 9.6 million.
Projected cost: $4.8 billion
Slogan: “Let Friendship Shine”
Pitch: The shoreline of Lake Michigan would have been the setting of the games, in a very centralized plan that had many venues near the heart of the city and the athletes close by.