South Africa is ready to host the Olympic Games and the country should bid for the 2024 edition, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Monday.
Mbalula, who was speaking at the arrival of the Queen's Baton in South Africa as part of the relay ahead of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, echoed what President Jacob Zuma last year told reporters at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.
"We don't want to bid for the Commonwealth Games, we want the Olympics here in South Africa," Mbalula said after arriving late for the press briefing at OR Tambo international airport. "If the Commonwealth comes first that would be great, but our biggest fish to catch is 2024 [Olympic Games].
"I can say, without a shadow of doubt, it would be realisable if we work together because we do it for the future of our young people.
"It is the time now to bid for bigger things, Olympics is about life."
South Africa was seen as a strong candidate to host the showpiece in 2020 but Cabinet announced earlier that year it would not support the bid as the country had more important priorities. The bidding process for the 2024 Olympics begins in 2015 and the International Olympic Committee will announce the winner in 2017.
The country's chances to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games has, however, been gaining steam particularly since it has been earmarked for an African country.
In a boost to South Africa's chances of a successful bid, the Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) president Gideon Sam was elected as one of two Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) vice-presidents in 2011.
"We are asking the Africans to put up their hands, but when you survey the possible countries only Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya or South Africa can bid," Sam said, wearing his CGF hat.
"By March, any of those four have to indicate before we meet for the general assembly in Auckland in 2015.
"My bias of course is that our athletes in South Africa have honoured this country by remaining in the top five in the Commonwealth."
Sam said South Africa may even bid for both the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics if there was an appetite to host both events. It was, however, doubtful the country would be tasked with organising both events which fell only two years apart. – Sapa