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Chicago stunned in defeat

COPENHAGEN — Like sweet, sultry samba music, Rio hit all the right notes.

Chicago had Barack Obama. Tokyo had $4 billion in the bank. Madrid had powerful friends. But none of that mattered. Rio de Janeiro had the enchanting story — of about 400 million sports-mad people on a giant untapped and vibrant continent yearning, hoping, that the Olympics finally might come to them.

And the International Olympic Committee was hooked.

Olympians, we'll see you on Copacabana beach in 2016. Let Carnival begin.

On a chilly Danish evening of high drama, the IOC on Friday sent the games of the 31st Olympiad to Brazil's bustling, fun-loving but crime-ridden city of beaches and mountains, romance and slums.

The IOC closed its eyes to the risks — the huge projected costs of the Rio Games, the concerns about how athletes will get around and where people will sleep — to focus on the reward of lighting the Olympic cauldron in one of the last corners of the globe yet to be bathed by its light.

"It is Brazil's time," said the country's charismatic president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Chicago was knocked out in the first round — in one of the most shocking defeats ever handed down by the committee of former Olympians, sports administrators, royals and other VIPs.

Bad blood between the IOC and its U.S. branch — they've had flare-ups over revenue sharing and lucrative broadcasting rights — proved to be a note of discord. IOC members said the slap to Chicago was more directed at the U.S. Olympic Committee than to the Windy City itself.

The win was decisive: Rio beat Madrid by 66 votes to 32.

Chicago got 18 votes in the first round, with Tokyo squeezing into the second round with 22. Madrid was leading after the first round with 28 votes, while Rio had 26.

In the second round, Tokyo was eliminated with just 20 votes. Madrid got 29, qualifying it for the final round face-off with Rio, which by then already had a strong lead with 46 votes.

The indignity suffered by Chicago — long considered a front-runner — was such that some IOC members squirmed. Obama flew overnight from Washington to sell his adoptive hometown and its plans for Olympic competition on Lake Michigan's windy shores to the IOC. First lady Michelle Obama, with talk show host Oprah Winfrey and sports stars in tow, jetted in first and spent two days buttering up IOC members, an essential part of the secretive and unpredictable selection process.

IOC members seemed wowed, posing for photos with her and taking souvenir shots of the president with their cell phones. But, in the vote, Chicago was shunned.

Obama called Silva to congratulate him, but the nature of the loss still rang as a stinging anti-American rebuke. Close to half of the IOC's 106 members are Europeans.

"To have the president of the United States and his wife personally appear, then this should happen in the first round is awful and totally undeserving," senior Australian IOC member Kevan Gosper said.

French IOC member Guy Drut said "an excess of security" for the Obamas unsettled some of his colleagues. He complained that he'd been barred from crossing the lobby of his hotel for security reasons, and he grumbled that "nothing has been done" to resolve the financial disputes between the IOC and the USOC.

Of Obama's performance, Drut said: "He didn't do too much. Michelle Obama was exceptional."

In Chicago, there was bewildered silence when IOC president Jacques Rogge announced: "The city of Chicago, having obtained the least number of votes, will not participate in the next round."

On Rio's Copacabana beach, where nearly 50,000 people roared when the winning city was announced, the party headed into the night.

Rio spoke to IOC members' consciences: the city argued that it was simply unfair that South America has never hosted the games, while Europe, Asia and North America have done so repeatedly.

"It is a time to address this imbalance," Silva told the IOC before it delivered its verdict. "It is time to light the Olympic cauldron in a tropical country."

The IOC's last two experiences in the United States were bad: the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics were sullied by a bribery scandal and logistical problems and a bombing hit the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

Former IOC member Kai Holm said the brevity of Obama's appearance — he was in and out in five hours — may have hurt Chicago.

"Too businesslike," Holm said. "It can be that some IOC members see it as a lack of respect."

The last U.S. city to bid for the Summer Games, New York, did scarcely better. It was ousted in the second round in the 2005 vote that gave the 2012 Games to London.

Now, Chicago can only rue what might have been.

And Rio... well, what an excuse for a party.

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