Durban 2022: what a shambles

2017-03-28 06:03

I WAS at a press briefing at Moses Mabhida Stadium back in 2013 during which plans were announced for the development of a state-of-the-art football academy.

It was to be a thing of beauty; the first of its kind in South Africa. The Hoy Park Academy, as it was to be known, would house 88 youth players and provide a platform for the brightest young talents in the country to develop.

It was to be costly — R300 million is an often-reported figure — but now, almost three-and-a-half years on, there is still no soccer academy. More than that, construction hasn’t even begun.

On Monday, Durban delivered another empty promise when it lost the right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The decision that was taken by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) did not come as a surprise, but that didn’t make it any less embarrassing.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and members of the bidding committee did a good job of trying to explain themselves in Durban on Tuesday.

They were not prepared to sign a contract with the CGF that made them financially liable for any shortfalls that arose from the hosting of the games.

South Africa, we were told, would not spend money that it does not have.

That seems responsible, but why did we come to that realisation only now? Doing so before launching a bid at all would have saved a lot of trouble and, more importantly, a lot of money.

Surely, at some level of local, provincial or national governance, this mess could have been prevented? Surely there was some highly paid number cruncher somewhere on the state payroll who looked at the equation and went: “Not going to happen”. Where is that person? Who gave the advice that this was a good idea? Who argued that it would be lucrative?

Whoever that person is should be made to answer some questions, because R118 million has now been wasted on securing the rights to host an event we will not see.

We probably shouldn’t be that surprised. It may seem a cheap shot, but if Durban can’t build a soccer academy for fewer than 100 children, then how can it be expected to facilitate a mega-event like the Commonwealth Games?

I watched on that October day back in 2013 as Safa officials and members of local and municipal government smiled and nodded at each other, trying their best to convince everyone that they knew what they were doing. But, as it turns out, nobody had a clue. And it seems like this Commonwealth Games fiasco went down a similar path.

The lack of communication between municipal, provincial and national government is often the reason for projects like Hoy Park failing to get off the ground. The provincial government announces a major development, everyone gets excited, but then somebody has to pay for it. And that burden often falls at the feet of the cash-strapped municipalities.

In the case of Durban 2022, it seems that the government and Sascoc (SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) were a million miles apart.

The point is that we need to be certain — dead certain — that we are able to pull off these grand plans before we celebrate them. Save the singing and dancing and patting yourself on the back until you’re absolutely certain that you have all your ducks in a row. Read the fine print, read it again, make sure you have the money to honour your contractual obligation, get everyone on the same page and then you can think about blowing your own trumpet.

The timing couldn’t be worse.

A group of World Rugby delegates arrived in South Africa on Monday, of all days, to inspect the country’s bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

What impact the latest developments have on that bid remains to be seen.

I, along with many others, have long been making a case for Durban as an Olympic venue over Cape Town. Logistically, everything is in close proximity and the facilities are already there. It seemed the most logical choice.

Now, any chance of hosting the Olympics seems dead and buried, alongside the dreams of a multimillion-rand soccer academy.

If Durban can’t host the Commonwealth Games after pleading to do so, it shouldn’t even be part of the conversation when discussing Olympic venues. At least we know that now.

But somebody needs to be held accountable for this. The R118 million that was wasted on the bid is the biggest tragedy of this mess-up. There is no way of recovering that money. It’s gone and we have nothing to show for it.

That money could have been better spent on, well, anything. Literally anything. It could have paid for almost half of the football academy that never was.

Instead, we are left scratching our heads, wondering how such important decisions were made with such ineptitude. — News24.

• Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and former sports editor of The Witness.

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