Olympic dreams take shape

2010-12-05 09:10

South Africa’s four-city race to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games appears to be going in ­favour of Durban, with a top ­government official even suggesting that it is the favourite.

Durban faces competition from Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, which, according to Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, have all indicated willingness to host the sporting mega-event.

Cape Town have said they would not enter the bidding race.

Durban’s hopes will be given a boost today with a visit to the city by ­International Olympic Committee (IOC) boss Jerome Rogge.

Rogge is addressing the World Conference on Sport, Education and Culture and will on the sidelines of this have a joint programme with the city and will hold informal discussions with the ­Mayor Obed Mlaba.

City Press has learned that the political ­leadership of the ­province and the city and Mbalula would also be at the meeting.

IOC spokesperson Sandrine Tonge said there would be no discussion of a Durban Olympic bid.

Durban appears to be in the driving seat, positioning itself strongly and developing the Kings’s Park sporting precinct.

The precinct runs from the ­Moses Mabhida Stadium to the ­Durban International Convention Centre and provides, among other things, a 76 000-seater stadium, several small stadiums including ­Absa Stadium, a cycling track and an arena suitable for indoor sports.

A senior city official said the city had already begun its lobbying process, with KwaZulu-Natal’s premier, Zweli Mkhize, notifying the South ­African bid committee of the ­province’s willingness to back the city’s bid.

In terms of process, cities make their pitches (which require the backing of their provincial government) and a national selection process takes place.

Mbalula yesterday played down any suggestion that it was a certainty that Durban would be the winning city.

He said the process was still wide open, with all four cities making representations to government.

“We understand that Durban is particularly enthusiastic, but the issue of the host city has not yet been finalised.

“Where we are at now is that while Cape Town had earlier said they were not interested, they have changed this position and the matter is wide open.

“We should be able to finalise the issue by the end of January or early in February, and we will then make a pronouncement as to which South African city will make the country’s bid,” said Mbalula.

He added: “The overall principle is that South Africa is prepared to host the Summer Olympics.

The issue now is which city.’’

The Nelson Mandela Bay ­Municipality (Port Elizabeth) ­yesterday confirmed that it would also be putting in a bid to host the 2020 Games.

Municipal spokesperson Roland Williams said they were awaiting details about the requirements from the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic ­Committee (Sascoc).

“We have many sporting facilities and infrastructure such as ­indoor sports fields and ­hotels to offer,” said Williams.

He said that the municipality had written to Sascoc asking for the specifications regarding the bid, but it had not received any feedback.

Various spokespeople for the City of Johannesburg yesterday could not provide any details about the city’s bid status.

City of Cape Town spokesperson Pieter Cronje yesterday said the Mother City would not bid to host the 2020 Olympics.

“We have informed Sascoc that we might in future bid for the ­Olympics held after 2020,” he said.

“After the 2010 World Cup we ­reconsidered all the costs of the infrastructure, such as public transport, that has to be put in place for the Oympics, and we decided to rather look at hosting other sports, entertainment, arts and culture events in the meantime.”

While the 2020 host will be announced in Buenos Aires only in mid-2013, the bidding process must take place next year.

Other cities expected to bid are Rabat (Morocco), Delhi (India), Rome (Italy), Brisbane (Australia) and Guadalajara (Mexico).

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