Four major international cities this morning made impassioned pleas to the International Olympic Committee, in an attempt to convince voters why there is the best place to stage the 2016 Olympic Games.
Some pitches were better than others.
Chicago kicked things off with a passionate, but unfocused presentation.
Hoping to persuade the IOC to award Chicago the 2016 Olympics, President Barack Obama and his wife led a heartfelt and, at times, very personal plea to IOC voters. Instead of stodgy technical details, discussions of finances or computer-generated graphics, Chicago took members inside the city to show why it should win the games.
Obama spoke of finally finding a home in Chicago after a nomadic childhood. Michelle Obama recounted how, growing up on the city's South Side, her disabled father taught her how to throw a ball and a "mean right hook." Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley invoked the memory of Jesse Owens.
Though Chicago is the third-largest city in the United States, it is largely unknown overseas. Or, if people are familiar with it, they see it as the home of Michael Jordan and Al Capone — and not necessarily in that order.
So Chicago showed videos of its picturesque lakefront, where most of the venues will be clustered, and artsy Millennium Park, which will be a gathering place for fans during the games.
The Chicago presentation was heavy on star power, but it did meander at times. Unlike the other bid cities, Chicago lacked a unifying message that would have tied their pitch up with a pretty bow.
The delegation from Japan made a presentation that was almost the polar opposite of the Chicago pitch.
Tokyo went heavy on thematic elements but had trouble providing the emotional connection that is so important to a sales pitch.
"You have encouraged us to show more passion, but Japanese are not good at showing our emotions. Our words may be few, but they are full of spirit."said Dr. Ichiro Kono..
What their presentation lacked in enthusiasm it made up for in theme.
The Tokyo Games would be for the children and for the future.
The delegation sent a 15-year-old gymnast to the podium to open the presentation and continually returned to their message of sustainability and eco-friendliness.
"Tokyo is indeed well positioned to serve as a future model for public safety and environmental sustainability," Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said. "In hosting the 2016 Games, Tokyo will show the world how a major metropolis shall flourish without detriment to the environment."
Or to put it another way:
"Our Games would be a showcase to the world of how to resolve the world's problems,” Kono said.
Should Tokyo win the games it will be their second turn at hosting the Olympics. They held the games there in 1964.
The Brazilian delegation returned to a theme that it has hammered on during the run-up to the bid presentation: that it’s the IOC’s duty to award the games to a Latin America.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told IOC members Friday it was time to address the "imbalance" and give Rio the 2016 Games. He said Brazil had earned its chance to show the games belonged to people of all continents.
"I honestly believe it is Brazil's time," Silva said through a translator. "It is time to light the Olympic cauldron in a tropical country."
While the emotional appeal of awarding the Games to Rio is strong, the logistical hurdles are many. But Rio did not shy away from its perceived deficiencies – including crime and a conflict with hosting the World Cup in 2014.
``We know some of you have concerns or questions about security. Changes have been made, happily as a result of sport,'' he said.
Bid leaders said they were ready to start work immediately to deliver an "exuberant" Olympics.
But emotions ruled the day for the Rio team, and they may have saved the best for last.
Joao Havelange, the IOC’s longest-standing member with 46 years of service, opened the presentation for Rio and made a passionate plea to his colleagues.
"I dream of seeing history being made in 2016," said Havelange, who would celebrate his 100th birthday weeks before a Rio Olympics opened.
The Spanish delegation pulled out a trump card at the end, but it wreaks of desperation.
Juan Antonio Samaranch Sr., who was president of the International Olympic Committee from 1980 to 2001 begged voters to award the games to his country before he died.
"May I ask you to consider granting my country the honor and also the duty to organize the Games and Paralympic Games in 2016. Thank you very much."
Beyond that the Madrid pitch amounted to a mash-up of multicultural video and a sappy play on an “Olympic Family” cliché.
After Samaranch’s deathbed plea, his son Juan Antonio Junior spoke. Then Madrid CEO Mercedes Coghen spoke followed by her 12-year-old daughter.
Finally, King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Luiz Zapatero took the reins and told voters that their city would make the best candidate because nearly all of the prep work is finished.
“Madrid’s project is the result of many years of effort,” Zapatero said. “This is a sure candidacy because Spain has shown that it can organise - brilliantly - sporting and cultural activities. Our candidacy is reliable because it is united politically.”
Overall the Madrid bid was filled with manufactured emotion and overly stylized video.
Soon enough we’ll see what the IOC voters thought.