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After Olympic Party, Hard Work Ahead For Brazil

As Rio awoke from a night of celebration after being awarded the 2016 Olympics, Brazil was already looking ahead to years of hard work in what will be a historic time in Latin America's biggest nation.

The world's two biggest sporting events will take place in Brazil a few years from now _ the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics _ and the country has little time to spare.

"We know the IOC decision has increased our responsibility," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said. "We know what we need to do. The word from now on is work, work and work."

Critics have questioned whether Brazil's infrastructure can handle such large events, and whether the country is safe enough to welcome the participants and tens of thousands of visitors into the country. Others say the events will help Brazil's emerging status as a world power _ with the country predicted as the world's fifth-largest economy by 2016 _ and serve as a catalyst for change and improvement to more than 190 million people.

"Brazil needed the Olympics. We needed this challenge," Silva said in Copenhagen just hours after Rio beat Madrid, Tokyo and Chicago. "We only needed one chance to prove that we are a great nation and that we have the capacity to do well just like any other country in the world."

Soccer's governing body FIFA awarded Brazil the World Cup in 2007 for the first time since 1950, and the International Olympic Committee on Friday decided to bring the games to South America for the first time.

It will be the fourth time the same nation hosts the Olympics and World Cup consecutively _ Mexico did it in 1968 and 1970, Germany in 1972 and 1974 and the United States in 1994 and 1996.

"That's something I didn't think I would see one day in Brazil," 78-year-old retiree Claudio Correa said Saturday while strolling on Ipanema beach. "Two big events like these right here. It certainly puts Brazil's name right up there."

Silva said that in addition to giving Brazil the status of a "first-class nation," the high-profile competitions also give Brazil a boost in pride and self-esteem.

"No one is happier than Brazil's people," Silva said. "But maybe because we were a colony for such a long time, we always had this sense of inferiority, of not being important. We always thought that we couldn't do what the others could."

With a sound technical project and a lot of passion, the Brazilians and Rio de Janeiro convinced the IOC they were finally ready to host the Olympics, after failed attempts in 1936, 2004 and 2012.

But there is a lot to do before Brazil is ready to stage the two major competitions.

Despite natural beauties and fun-loving people, the nation also has to deal with poverty, violence and other problems inherent to a developing country. Among the problems that will have to be addressed ahead of 2016 are security and transportation.

"We'll have to sleep less and do more," Silva said.

Officials are already getting to work, and members of the new Rio 2016 Organizing Committee met with IOC officials on Saturday in Copenhagen to discuss future actions. Committee President Carlos Arthur Nuzman said several meetings in the next few days will be needed to begin organizing the city's plans.

Back home, media praised Rio's achievement with front-page headlines across the nation.

"Rio deserves it," the O Dia daily said.

The sports daily Lance wrote that the "The dream became reality."

Some analysts, however, pointed to the challenges and possible drawbacks the country will have by organizing two major competitions in a short period of time.

"This decision is great and we have to celebrate," columnist and TV commentator Antero Greco said. "But we know there will be a lot of public money involved in these competitions and we have the responsibility to make sure this money is going to be well used."

There was a lot of criticism becase of a budget overrun following the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio, and there are concerns the same may happen with the Olympics, which will cost Brazil $14.4 billion.

A study by Brazil's sports ministry said the games are expected to create 120,000 jobs each year across Brazil until 2016, plus 130,000 jobs per year the following 10 years. Tourism also likely will get a boost, as will the hotel industry.

In addition, funding to crime-fighting programs has already been granted to Rio and more is on the way. The city will likely host the World Cup's main media center and FIFA's headquarters in 2014.

The Cariocas, as Rio citizens are known, celebrated wildly on Copacabana when IOC President Jacques Rogge announced Rio as the winner Friday. The party then moved to the beachside bars for the traditional choppe (draft beer) and caipirinha _ a Brazilian cocktail made from sugarcane liquor, fresh fruit, sugar and ice.

"There is a lot of reason for Brazilians to be celebrating," said 25-year-old Ecuadorean Gabriela Baroja. "Brazil will become a better country."