Durban was officially named as host of the 2022 Commonwealth Games on Wednesday, making it the first African city to stage the sporting spectacular.
South Africa’s third largest city was the only candidate for the 2022 hosting rights after Canada’s Edmonton withdrew in February, citing cost concerns.
But the vote still sparked huge celebrations in Durban, where television pictures showed large crowds waving the South African flag.
“I’m excited, the city is excited!” Durban 2022 bid chairperson Mark Alexander said from Auckland in New Zealand, where the official announcement was made at the 71-nation Commonwealth Games Federation’s (CGF) general assembly.
Newly elected CGF president Louise Martin, who led a commission that examined Durban’s bid in fine detail and gave it strong support, expressed delight the Games would finally be held in Africa after 85 years.
“A historic decision for all of us and one that my commission completely endorses,” she said.
Organisers, campaigning under the slogan “Ready to Inspire”, said 90% of the facilities were already in place, with most of them within 2km of the city centre.
They have described the event as a “game-changer” that is expected to boost tourism and jobs in the Indian Ocean city of more than three million people.
The four-yearly, multi-sport event was first staged in 1930, when it was known as the British Empire Games.
Britain has hosted six editions, Australia and Canada four apiece, New Zealand three, and Jamaica, Malaysia and India one each.
Africa has always missed out but sports officials have been buoyed by South Africa’s successful hosting of the world’s three biggest single-sport events – the football, cricket and rugby union World Cups.
The South African government said last week that the Durban Games would use infrastructure from the 2010 football World Cup, including the 85 000-seat Moses Mabhida Stadium, to keep costs down.
The Durban Games will open on July 18 2022, a national holiday marking the birthday of South African icon Nelson Mandela, who died in 2013 aged 95. The Games will run for 12 days.