SAO PAULO, Brazil — The weight of a troubled history has taught Brazilians not to expect too much. Their country, it is often said, is the "nation of the future — and always will be."
On Friday, the International Olympic Committee declared that the future is now.
In a leap of faith recognizing an emerging player on the world stage, officials awarded the 2016 Olympic Games to Rio de Janeiro, giving it the honor of staging the first Olympiad held in South America.
The selection of Rio over rivals Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid set off a joyous celebration in a city known in roughly equal measure for its beaches, its carnival and its vast, crime-ridden shantytowns. While Chicago backers in particular reacted with stunned silence, in Brazil the decision was met with a fervent hope that the country might finally be approaching its vast potential.
"I say with all frankness: Our time has come," President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva declared. Like President Barack Obama and officials of the other finalist countries, Lula made a personal appeal to the IOC before its vote in Copenhagen, Denmark.
After the vote, a teary-eyed Lula told reporters: "I confess to you that if I died now, my life has been worthwhile."
Brazil pursued the honor vigorously, promising to spend $14 billion. Brazilians regard the Olympics as an event that will lift their country, an increasingly important economic power, to the global stage and transform Rio, much as the 1992 Games built Barcelona, Spain, into a tourist and meeting venue.