Conspiracy theorists might argue that two news stories that emerged in the days running up to the 2016 Olympic city vote in Copenhagen were no accident. The week opened with an American father being thrown behind bars in Fukuoka for attempting to abduct his children who had been spirited away to Japan by his estranged wife. As the story played out on CNN, it was Japan’s out-of-step custody laws that were blamed for allowing this to happen and, for a brief moment, it did make Tokyo look a bit out of touch with the rest of the world and not the most tolerant capital to be hosting an event that prides itself on diversity.
The day after, video emerged from the meaner streets of Chicago showing a group of youths beating another youngster to death. No, not the best footage to have playing on hotel-room TV screens in Copenhagen as IOC delegates were unpacking their undies and hanging up their suits.
It might have been these quirky, even tragic, bits of news that influenced some of the voting in Copenhagen yesterday afternoon and that saw Chicago booted out first and Tokyo excused in the second round, but I’d say it had more to do with execution.
From the moment Air Force One touched down at Copenhagen Airport, Kastrup, the Chicago bid team was doomed. This is not to blame the swagger that comes with a 747 thundering into a tiny Nordic capital early on a Friday morning but the effect that over-rehearsed, stiff, slightly smug and overly corporate presentations have on delegates in conference rooms the world over. Chicago’s bid might have been technically up to scratch but the moment its IOC member Anita DeFrantz took to the stage with her hammy delivery, she’d lost the first three rows. When Mayor Daley got up and pitched his town like he was wooing another Boeing to move its HQ there, he lost Europe. When Doug Arnot butchered the French language, he lost the Francophone bloc. And whoever allowed the Obamas to serve up such helpings of cheese so early in the day should be sacked. Michelle Obama’s overly personal story was disjointed and her husband just looked annoyed that he had to address such a small audience.
When Tokyo took to the stage, it was a breath of fresh air. There was humility, a new prime minister who actually spoke English, fancy scarves, cute addresses in French and the very handsome gold medal hammer thrower Koji Murofushi who delivered one of the best athlete speeches of the day.
Rio turned up the heat further with an evocative and rather sexy film set to a bit of mod-Bossa Nova. And, despite too much talk about how much security was going to improve come 2016, you couldn’t help but think that the bid leader was also warming up to run for President Lula’s post in the next election with his rather clever info graphic showing clearly why his city needed to bring the games to South America.
And then came Madrid with its polished cast, touching set of films, passionate appeal from former IOC chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch and moving speech from paralympic swimmer Teresa Perales.
In the end pure passion – and perhaps a little geography — won the day for Rio. While Madrid is undoubtedly the safer bet and has worked harder than most, the IOC members decided it was time to open up the field. Of course, conspiracy theorists would say another snippet of news from earlier in the week already gave it away. President Lula just took delivery of a brand new presidential jet in the form of a home-made Embraer E190. He must have known he’d have a lot more travelling to do.