By Duncan Mackay in Copenhagen

Eduardo Paes is a youthful looking 39. He will be hoping that the next few years will not age him too fast. Paes is the elected Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, a prominent figure in the Brazilian city’s successful campaign to host the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.

The hangovers of the Cariocas - as local residents are known - from the massive party held on Copacabana Beach to celebrate Rio’s choice as host ahead of Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo last weekend are beginning to clear and now the real work must begin. 


There is no doubt that taking the Olympics to South America for the first time is a popular choice but it also fair to say that Rio’s progress will be followed with close interest. If it hosts successful Games then it could open the Olympic door to other currently unchartered cities, like Durban and New Delhi. But if it fails then it could slam the door shut in the face for cities in Africa and the rest of the developing world for decades.

Paes, who is one of the keynote speakers at the Global Sports Industry Congress to be held in London on October 18 and 19, knows that he not only owes a responsibility to the people of Rio and Brazil but also the rest of the world to deliver a great Games. "The Olympic movement is a global movement, so it has to be global," he said. "It has to go to all the continents, all the countries, all the areas of the world. We're pretty emotional here at this moment because we know it's a very important moment for a city that has a lot to give. It's going to change forever the Olympic Movement."

In the past, the IOC has bestowed its seal of approval on uncharted regions at propitious times in their histories. Tokyo won the 1964 Games as Japan was still emerging from the shadow of the Second World War and the country's economy was taking off. Seoul's 1988 Games helped promote "brand Korea," while Chinese officials originally sought the 2008 Beijing Games to escape their global isolation. Paes is hoping that staging the Olympics will help boost Rio's image internationally. "Rio has everything and more than everything, it has Cariocas who are the most marvelous people," he said.

It was Brazil's resilience to the global financial crisis that boosted Rio’s bid and underlined their status as a growing financial superpower. While the United States, Japan, and Spain were hit hard by the crisis, Brazil got off relatively lightly and has rebounded this year after slipping into a brief recession. "I think the reaction of Brazil to the crisis, the control of markets, and the strength of the Brazilian economy had a positive impact on Rio's candidacy," Paes said. "It's a country that is economically strong, powerful, and that is growing."

Paes (pictured kissing the pen during the signing ceremony after the 2016 decision) claimed that, unlike in its wealthy rival cities, Rio would be transformed by the investments the Games would bring. But he said most of the upgrades to the city's infrastructure were planned anyway, reducing the chances of major cost overruns. Memories in Rio are fresh of the 2007 Pan-American Games that they hosted successfully but which cost four times the original budget. "It is obvious that the proposal contained exaggerations that clearly could not be fulfilled," Paes admits.

That will not happen this time, he promised, even though Rio was the least prepared in terms of infrastructure and sports venues, with only 29 per cent of the facilities demanded by the IOC in place and another 24 per cent needing modernisation.

The city's transport system alone needs a $5 billion (£3 billion) upgrade to be ready for the Olympics, organisers admit. In total, the Games would cost about $15 billion (£9.4 billion), they say. Paes is confident that the event will not bankrupt the city. "The total [of Rio's Olympic budget] is this because we included absolutely everything that affects the Games ... in this respect, Rio's proposal was the most realistic of all," he said.

Paes, a member of the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, was elected Mayor  last September when he defeated Fernando Gabeira, a Brazilian congressman who helped kidnap an American Ambassador during Brazil’s military dictatorship, with more than half the vote.

Paes, formerly served as an administrator of Jacarepaguá and of Barra da Tijuca, two neighborhoods of Rio. He was backed by Sérgio Cabral, the Governor of Rio State. Paes campaigned during the election that he would be a better administrator than Gabeira, and that he was the better choice to act as a bridge between the State and City Governments. It was that cooperation that helped make Rio's bid so attractive.

It is indisputable that the beachside city of Bossa Nova and Carnival was the most picturesque and romantic choice but Rio also faces concerns over a high crime rate and the pollution that affects some lakes and Guanabara Bay overlooked by the famous Sugarloaf Mountain.

Paes, who has waged a campaign to bring order to Rio's often chaotic streets since his election, acknowledged that security was a problem that Rio needed to tackle, but said it would not affect a one-off event like the Olympics.

Hundreds of slums in Rio are controlled by heavily armed drug traffickers, many within a stone's throw of tourist areas such as Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. Thousands of federal police were drafted in to secure the city during the Pan-American Games. "For the Olympics I don't have any doubt that these difficulties that Rio has, which we don't hide, will be easily overcome," Paes said.

Rio's bid benefited on the almost fanatical support of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has backed it from the start and made winning the Games a national priority. "He is the face of a stronger Brazil that has confronted the economic crisis very well ... of a world organisation that no longer sees rich countries taking all the decisions," Paes said of Lula, a hugely popular former union leader.

Rio officials also claimed hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup was an "asset" for Games preparations, despite IOC concerns that the World Cup could cut into Olympic sponsorship efforts with both events so close together.

"Having the World Cup is an asset for our campaign,” said Paes. “Almost all of the things that are in our bid book, they will be ready by 2014. For us having the World Cup is big chance of having things ready. It is a fantastic city, it is a marvellous city and it will change forever the Olympic Games."

Eduardo Paes, Mayor of Rio, host of the 2016 Summer Olympics, will appear at the Global Sports Industry Congress in London on October 19.  For more details on the Global Sports Industry Congress click here.

Duncan Mackay is the publisher and editor of He was the 2004 British Sports Journalist of the Year and was the athletics correspondent of The Guardian for 11 years, being the only British daily newspaper writer to correctly predict in 2005 that London's Olympic bid would be successful