Rio points to Pan-Am success in 2016 Games bid

Updated: May 31, 2008, 1:23 PM ET
Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Brazil's sports minister cited the country's economic boom and the success of the 2007 Pan American Games as reasons why Rio de Janeiro should be picked to host the 2016 Olympics.

Orlando Silva leaves Monday for Athens, Greece, where the International Olympic Committee will release a short list on Wednesday of the finalists bidding for the 2016 games.

Rio's main competitors are Chicago; Tokyo; and Madrid, Spain; while Czech capital Prague; Doha, Qatar; and Baku, Azerbaijan, are also bidding.

"The PanAm games were a great success and gave Rio credibility," Silva he told The Associated Press. "The installations were Olympic standard. Transportation, health, security, food, everything worked very well and was highly praised."

Silva said Brazil's roaring economy also was a plus. The country paid off its foreign debt last year and was declared a safe place for foreign investors to put their money, with a debt upgrade this year from Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings.

Choosing Rio would also help the IOC in its attempt to move the games away from traditional venues in developed countries, Silva said.

"This would be the first Olympics in South America," he said. "It's a way for the IOC to approach the 21st century."

Some Brazilians are skeptical about Rio's chances since FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, picked Brazil to host the World Cup in 2014.

But Tourism Minister Marta Suplicy said in March that the soccer tournament was a great opportunity for Brazil to raise its visibility and status as a world-class sports host.

And Silva said history was on Brazil's side. He pointed out that the United States held the World Cup and the Olympics two years apart in 1994 and '96, as Germany did in '74 and '76, and Mexico in '68 and '70.

"The Olympics are a dream for us," he said. "The Olympics would place sports strongly in the national agenda -- and not just soccer."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press