Durban winning SA race to bid for Olympics

Durban is in line to bid for the 2020 Olympic Games, a project that would require at least R30-billion to build new venues, South Africa’s Olympic committee chief said.

Government approval is still needed before the South African Sport Confederation and Olympic Committee can submit a bid ahead of the IOC’s Septrmber 1 deadline.

Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg have also expressed interest, but Sascoc president Gideon Sam said Durban was the likely candidate.

“The economies of scale will tip it in the direction of Durban but that final decision has to be taken,” he told the Associated Press.

Rome is the only city so far that has been officially nominated by its national committee to bid for the 2020 Games. Tokyo, Madrid, Istanbul, Doha and Dubai are among other potential contenders.

Africa has never hosted the Olympics, with Cape Town finishing third behind winner Athens and Rome when South Africa bid for the 2004 Summer Games.

South Africa set its sights on a 2020 bid after successfully hosting the Soccer World Cup.

Durban, South Africa’s third largest city, was one of the nine World Cup host cities and built the Moses Mabhida Stadium for the tournament. The stadium has a capacity of 72 000, space for an athletics track and an adjoining indoor arena.

Durban, which is served by a new international airport, will have a chance to impress voters when it hosts the International Olympic Committee’s general assembly in July.

After that meeting, the IOC will formally invite bids for the 2020 Olympics ahead of the September 1 deadline.

The winner will be announced in 2013 at the IOC session in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“If we don’t win on the Olympics, there is 2022 for the Commonwealth Games,” Sam said.

White elephant stadiums
The World Cup relied on taxpayer funded stadiums, including the Moses Mabhida Stadium, which have been largely unused since the tournament.

But Sam said that should not deter an Olympic bid.

“As a South African we look at those white elephants and see that we have achieved something,” Sam said in London at the SportAccord conference. “It has given us the confidence to look forward and see what London has done with the Olympics and we wonder, “Why can’t we?”‘

London has a £9,3-billion ($15-billion) public sector budget for the 2012 Games, with most money spent on building venues and regnerating an area of east London into the Olympic Park.

Readily acknowledging that an Olympics in South Africa would leave behind white elephant stadiums, Sam urged the government to recognise that the benefits may only be reaped many years later.

Sam said the number of post-Olympic events in venues “might not be at the scale that maybe others here [at SportAccord] that are economically minded” would want.

“We are saying keep [the venues] there. In five years or 10 years time [after the Olympics] we will be on the road and it will be utilised,” Sam said. “Over the years of sports isolation, because of our policies of apartheid, we are catching up with the rest of the world now. The faster we run all the better for us.”

While Sam said building new venues for the Olympics would cost around R30-billion, he expected the financial hit to be outweighed by the employment opportunities generated by the building projects.

“The big issue now for South Africans is we must create jobs — can you imagine if we get the nod for the Olympics how many jobs will be created,” Sam said. “Somehow [the government] will find a way to find that kind of money.”

Sam said the government could raise funds by “being more efficient in terms of collecting taxes with people not getting through the loopholes.”

“[Sports events] tend to give rise to other things happening because the confidence of the country suddenly goes up and people and sponsors come to the party,” Sam added. – Sapa-AP


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