Beijing triumphs with 2008 Olympic bid

IOC awards Games to world's most populous nation, ending Toronto's Olympic dreams.

Ending months of speculation, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2008 Olympics to Beijing, dashing Toronto's hopes of holding the world's premier amateur sporting event.

Fireworks lit up the sky over Beijing as the news was announced and celebrating crowds waving flags filled the streets, overjoyed that the Olympics would finally come to the world's most populous nation.

IOC delegates meeting in Moscow awarded the Games to Beijing on the second round of voting, with Beijing winning 56 votes three more than the city needed for victory.

Toronto trailed with 22 votes, followed by Paris' 18 and Istanbul's nine. Osaka, Japan was dropped after the first ballot after receiving the lowest number of votes.

Wang Wei, secretary general of the Beijing bid committee, said that he was overjoyed. "Our efforts have paid off," he said. "The world has come to understand Beijing and China better. If we build more bridges, I think we can resolve our differences."

But many criticized the IOC decision to award China with the Olympics despite its record on human rights. Tibetan activists, protesting Chinese rule of Tibet since 1950, have already promised to push for a boycott of the Games.

U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, who put forward a resolution against the Beijing bid that was blocked by the Republicans, said that China would benefit from the reputation of the Olympic Games despite its human rights record.

None of the delegates asked questions about human rights during Beijing's presentation, although the city's bid team stressed that the Games would improve human rights and the standard of living in China.

Some felt that the IOC was determined to finally give the Games to the world's most populous nation, in spite of the human rights issue. Others speculated that the IOC felt obligated to give the Games to Beijing following China's narrow loss to Sydney for the 2000 Summer Games.

Toronto hopes deflated

Toronto's final presentation highlighted the city as a "risk-free" choice, and emphasized the city's multiculturalism and safety. The Toronto bid also stressed that roughly three-quarters of the infrastructure was already in place, and that the bid was supported by all three levels of government.

Bob Richardson, the chief operating officer, said that the Toronto bid knew they were up against a powerful competitor in Beijing, due in large part to the China's never having held the Games. "We're obviously disappointed but we think we fought a great fight."

Disappointment was also evident in the faces of thousands of Torontonians who jammed the streets near the city's Union Station for what they hoped would be a victory party.

But when outgoing IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch announced that Beijing had won, the crowd groaned, turned silent and began to disappear.

Others cheered at the announcement. Jan Borowy, a member of Bread Not Circuses, said that the Olympics would have a negative impact on any city.

But some believe that Toronto's loss could have positive implications for the bid by Vancouver and Whistler for the 2010 Winter Games. It is unlikely that the IOC would have awarded the Games to the western bid had Toronto's 2008 bid been successful.