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Lula hails Rio's victory in Olympic bid 'biggest gift'

BRAZILIAN President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva hailed yesterday a victory for Rio de Janeiro's bid for hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics as "the biggest gift" he ever got as president.

"As president, this is the biggest gift I have ever got," tearful Lula told reporters after Rio was chosen as the host city for the 31st Olympic Games in 2016 by the 121st session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

"If I died right now, it would have been worth it," the President said.

"I thought I would never be touched again in my life. Rio has soul, it has heart," he said.

Rio collected 66 votes to beat Madrid in third and final round of voting.

Chicago was out of the race in the first round and Tokyo in the second round of voting.

"The substantial difference was that those who were here to vote saw in our eyes that we came here with heart and soul. The other countries came here with proposals, we came with our heart and our soul," he said, wiping tears with a handkerchief once in awhile.

He said that his country "stopped being a second-class country and definitively joined the level of first-class nations", quoting the World Bank as saying that Brazil would be in 2016 the world's fifth-largest economy.

"Nobody doubts our economic and social greatness anymore," the Brazilian president said.

He said that after the victory, the Brazilian people and government would shoulder their responsibilities to organize a spectacular Olympic Games in the seven years to come.

Brazil and South America have never hosted an Olympic Games, the largest sports event on earth.


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