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2016 Olympics: Three funerals and a party

Rio rocks. Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo mope.

After years of intense preparation, millions of dollars, euros, yen and reais spent — as well as plenty of politicking at the highest levels — the International Olympic Committee on Friday awarded the 2016 Olympics to Rio de Janeiro.

The IOC vote in Copenhagen, Denmark, triggered immediate reactions across the four candidate cities: Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid and, of course, among the throngs and thongs on Copacabana Beach.

To document the emotions from around the globe, we stationed GlobalPost correspondents in each of the four finalist cities. So what did they find?

Three funerals and a party.

The party: Rio de Janeiro, by Seth Kugel

The people of Rio de Janeiro rarely need an excuse to celebrate, but Friday they got one, and a crowd of tens of thousands on Copacabana Beach — most in flipflops or barefoot — watched as Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, announced on a huge screen that their city had been chosen host the 2016 Games.

The crowd of Cariocas, as residents of the city are called, exploded as if the national soccer team had just won the World Cup.

“These are the most joyous people in the world,” said Gustavo Vieira, an elementary school teacher who had taken advantage of the day off granted by Rio to put on a yellow and green wig with a shock of blue and come to the beach. “It’s the most marvelous city in the world.”

“It’s the warmest, it’s the most receptive,” said his wife Margarita, in a matching wig.

The party started early in the morning as booths provided face-painting services (yellow and green, please). Announcements on the subway encouraged those who might be heading elsewhere to make their way to the famous beach. The city government had declared an optional holiday. Confidence had been high: a poll taken this week showed 70 percent of residents thought Rio would win.

The poll also found that 80 percent wanted it to win. The 20 percent who didn’t were nowhere to be seen today, as the Brazilian popular music singer Lulu Santos, a resident of Rio who is known to ride his bike through the streets, got the crowd going.

Rio becomes the first South American city to host an Olympic Games, a point that Brazil’s boosters stressed throughout the campaign. Also part of the plea: Brazil’s quick recovery from the worldwide financial crisis and bright economic future; Rio’s reputation as a physically stunning, spirited city, of course, didn’t hurt either. And the $14.5 billion the city planned to spend to prepare was more than twice as much as the three other finalists (though much of that was for already-approved infrastructure improvements). But Rio also had vulnerabilities. It is still plagued by violent crime and shantytowns run by drug gangs, a problem highlighted with particularly unfortunate timing in this week’s New Yorker magazine. The city’s failure to complete improvements promised for the 2007 Pan-American Games cast doubt on its ability to execute. And Rio will play a key role when Brazil hosts the soccer World Cup in 2014, just two years prior to the Olympic Games, which some critics felt would be a distraction from the Olympics.

“Brazil was the only country that really wanted to the Olympics,” said Brazil’s charismatic president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, speaking soon after the announcement in Copenhagen. "I think people saw that in our eyes."

He had arrived there this week, joined by the governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro, Sergio Cabral, and the mayor of the city, Eduardo Paes, to lobby for last minute votes. Also on schmooze patrol seeking to sway votes were soccer legend Pele and novelist Paulo Coelho, author of "The Alchemist."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/sports/091002/2016-olympics-three-funerals-and-party