Rio de Janeiro to host 2016 Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO: Tens of thousands of "Cariocas" exploded with joy here Friday, dancing to the infectious beat of samba music in a giant beach party as Rio de Janeiro was chosen to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

"Rio loves you!" chanted the crowd, estimated to be 50,000 strong.

The crowd of Cariocas -- as local residents are known -- cheered enthusiastically when they heard that the International Olympic Committee had chosen Rio over rivals Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid.

Many dressed in the national colors of green and yellow, and waved Brazilian flags. Overjoyed city residents hugged each other as confetti showered over the euphoric crowd.

"I don''t have the words to describe it -- it''s a huge joy. Brazil deserved it, it was the country''s turn," said Rafael del Castillo, a tourism student, noting that the Games has never been held in South America.

A group of athletes awaited the announcement on a stage where musicians were set to perform wrapped in Brazilian flags -- and burst into cheers when they heard the news.

A giant 2,200 square meter (23,680 square foot) banner with a picture of Christ Redeemer -- the statue that overlooks Rio and is the city''s symbol -- along with the words "Rio loves you" was then unfurled over the crowd.

There was widespread support for the city''s bid, with 85 percent of Rio residents in favor of bringing the Games to Brazil and 69 percent support nationally.

A string of performers hit a giant stage on the Copacabana beach and performed to crowds officials expect to reach 100,000. Officials said the partying would last late into the night, with an encore presentation set for Sunday.

Brazil "is the Latin American country best prepared to host the Games," said Marina Flores, an Argentine resident of Rio.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Rio de Janeiro state governor Sergio Cabral were in Copenhagen Friday, and were visibly overjoyed in TV images as the decision was announced.

Most residents hope life in the city will improve considerably when the Olympics come.

"Everyone''s hope is for security and transportation to improve in the city, because the daily life of the Carioca is very difficult," said Ricardo Chaves, a 47-year-old accountant.

Traffic in the city is chaotic, the public transportation system is insufficient, the city suffers from a high crime rate, which includes 6,000 people murdered in 2008.

"This is a great opportunity for Rio," said musician Cintia Lobato. "The city is impoverished and it needs the Games, which could spur development if they are well managed."