Rio urges IOC to award Olympics to South America Rio de Janeiro delivered a passionate appeal for South America to be awarded the Olympics for the first time.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told IOC members Friday it was time to address the "imbalance" and give Rio the 2016 Games.

He said Brazil had earned its chance to show the games belonged to people of all continents.

"I honestly believe it is Brazil's time," Silva said through a translator. "It is time to light the Olympic cauldron in a tropical country."

In a confident presentation, Rio 2016 president Carlos Nuzman showed his fellow IOC members a map of the world marking cities that have hosted the games. Europe had 30 dots on the map, Asia five, Oceania two and North America 12 _ including eight in the United States, home to expected main rival Chicago. Tokyo and Madrid are also bidding to host the games.

Silva, speaking in Portuguese, addressed IOC members as "dear friends," and invited them to boost Brazil's self-esteem and inspire 400 million South American people.

"Rio is ready," Silva said. "Give us this chance and you will not regret it, be sure."

Nuzman, who cannot vote while Rio is still in the secret balloting, called on his colleagues to "open the door to a new continent, one that stands ready to take the Olympic Movement forward."

Rio's leaders said they would deliver a safe Olympics, and that the Brazilian economy could guarantee financial stability. Rio's spending plans of $14.4 billion (euro9.9 billion) on venues and infrastructure are the highest of the four candidates.

Henrique Meirelles, president of Brazil's Central Bank, said the economy had grown stronger this year.

Brazil's president, known as Lula, was the star attraction of a 45-minute presentation in which bid organizers switched between four languages _ Portuguese, English, French and Spanish.

Brazil was now more confident on the global stage "thanks to President Lula," Nuzman said.

"We have provided guarantees that can give you certainty," Meirelles said. "Our economic strength can give you confidence to bring the games to Rio in 2016."

IOC members were told Brazil is the only one of the world's top 10 economies never to have hosted an Olympics, and is scheduled to rank fifth largest by 2016.

Rio has faced calls to spend the money instead on education and social projects for its six million people, and making the city safer.

The bid team has presented the Olympics as a catalyst to transform the city, chiming with an IOC mission principle.

"We will deliver a safe and secure games," said Rio state governor Sergio Cabral, who has responsibility for tackling urban crime. "All in the name of sport and the long-term needs of our people."

Bid leaders said they were ready to start work immediately to deliver an "exuberant" Olympics.

Rio transformed its prospects in the hosting race after getting low marks for technical aspects of the bid when IOC evaluators first rated candidates in March 2008. But it bounced back into closer contention after the official evaluation team visited the city five months ago.

Rio's momentum picked up speed after the four candidate cities met IOC members in June at the Olympic capital city of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Days before the final vote, Rio's team arrived in Copenhagen carrying the unofficial tag of front-runner alongside Chicago.

The IOC was given a further sentimental reason to back Rio after the presentation was opened by Joao Havelange, its longest-standing member with 46 years of service.

"I dream of seeing history being made in 2016," said Havelange, who would celebrate his 100th birthday weeks before a Rio Olympics opened.


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