Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula said on Tuesday he still wants the country to bid for the 2020 Olympic Games despite a Cabinet decision last month to instead spend money on services for the poor.
Mbalula said he hopes to convince his colleagues in President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet to revisit plans for an Olympic bid, which the government vetoed after estimating it would cost $50-million.
“The bidding process is quite open. If we’re able to persuade government otherwise and turn around things, then we’ll still be able to announce [a bid],” Mbalula told journalists.
Mbalula collapsed at the May 25 Cabinet meeting where plans for a bid were scrapped and was later hospitalised with what the government described as “flu-like” symptoms.
He said Tuesday: “From our own point of view, the struggle continues.
“It’s not all lost.”
Mbalula was speaking at a briefing on preparations for a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in Durban next month, where the host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics will be announced.
Durban had been tipped as a likely bidder for the 2020 Games after winning praise as a host city during the Soccer World Cup last year.
But the South African government said it would rather spend money creating jobs and improving services like water and electricity.
“If any money is going to be spent, it’s going to be on basic service delivery,” government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said.
South Africa poured $5-billion into the first Soccer World Cup in Africa and largely overcame fears about crime and poor transportation to host a widely applauded tournament.
But the country struggles to provide basic services and faces a 25% unemployment rate, issues that have sparked major protests in poor communities in recent years.
Cape Town sought in 1997 to become the first African host of the Olympics, but when it failed to win the 2004 Games the country turned its focus to the World Cup.
Candidates for 2020 must submit their bids to the IOC by September 1. The host city will be chosen in Buenos Aires in September 2013.
Doha, Istanbul, Rome, Tokyo and South Korea’s Busan have all shown interest in hosting the event. — AFP