COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Friday Brazilians would have to sleep less and work more to fulfill their responsibility as the first South American country to host the Olympic Games.
A tearful, jubilant Lula hailed the International Olympic Committee’s choice of Rio to hold the 2016 Games over Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo as a great day for Brazil and a coming of age for his country.
“Brazil needed these Olympic Games,” he told a news conference after weeping openly and copiously into a white handkerchief.
“Today I have felt more pride at being Brazilian than ever before,” the 63-year-old president said.
Previous defeats had taught Brazil a lot, Lula said. “We’re not a second rate country, we’re a first rate country.”
He said that Brazil’s history as a colony meant that Brazilians had “certain manias...a mania to think small.”
“The IOC today has decided to increase our responsibility as Brazilians,” the president said.
“We are going to have to sleep less, think more and work more,” he said. “Now our term of reference is going to be work, work, work — work for Brazil to do better than any other time in its history.”
But he said it would be up to Brazilians themselves to finish the job to become the first South American country to hold the Games.
“I won’t be in government any more in 2016 — it’s the Brazilian people who will have responsibility for the Olympic Games,” Lula said.
Brazil’s victory unfolded after a shock earlier in the evening.
Chicago, seen by many as a favourite after U.S. President Barack Obama flew to Copenhagen to boost his hometown’s bid, was voted out on the IOC’s first ballot.
Asked how it felt to “knock out President Obama in the first round,” Lula said: “It wasn’t Lula that won and Obama that lost. It was Rio that won because it presented the best bid for hosting the Olympic Games in 2016.”
Lula also sent commiserations to Obama and to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Japanese Premier Yukio Hatoyama who also travelled to Denmark to boost their cities’ bids for the Games.
“I apologise for being happy and you’re sad,” Lula quipped.
“I thought I would never be touched again in my life,” he said. “Rio has soul, it has heart,” he said just moments after the decision was announced.
“Just to be here to live this, even if I lost, it would be worthwhile to come here and defend your country. No one has any doubt about the greatness of the Brazilian economy. The other cities presented proposals but Brazil presented its heart.
Additional reporting by Karolos Grohmann