Durban gets 2020 thumbs-up

By Agiza Hlongwane

Football heavyweight Danny Jordaan is cautiously optimistic about Durban's bid to host the Olympic Games in 2020.

Jordaan, credited with the successful delivery of Africa's first World Cup, believes the city is well poised to stage the Olympics, although he admits it will place huge demands on resources and infrastructure.

"I certainly think Durban has what it takes. I'm sure the city will make a proper analysis on whether to go with it," he told the Tribune after presenting a lecture at a Diakonia Council of Churches gathering in Durban this week.

"Durban has done incredibly well, both from the point of view of infrastructure and the hosting of the World Cup. You have one of the best stadiums in the country, one of the best in the world. The Germans were very happy, the Dutch were here. They are happy. I was in Australia last week, they were very happy. And of course the fan park in Durban was a huge success. So, I think many people who came here will certainly be coming back."

Jordaan, the former CEO of Fifa's local organising committee, said he always knew that once the World Cup had been delivered successfully, attention would shift to the 2020 Olympic Games.

"I knew the IOC would be under pressure because it's then the only mega-event not to touch African soil. I hear Durban has expressed an interest; we'll have to see what it comes up with.

He said South Africa's hosting of the World Cup had already endeared the country to the International Olympics Committee's Jacque Rogge.

"When he came here to watch the World Cup final, he said he thought it was time for Africa to host the Olympics. I think that was a good statement from the president of the IOC," added Jordaan.

The city had already invested in infrastructure, which would help its bid.

Jordaan's wife, Roxanne, speaking at the lecture, praised South Africa's hosting of the spectacle, saying it showed the country had enough resources to help the poor.

"The World Cup has shown us that we can deliver and now the government must deliver according to the needs of the people."

Her statement was echoed by Anglican Bishop of Natal Rubin Phillip, who has been vocal about the lack of housing at the Kennedy Road informal settlement. "If we can successfully host a massive event like the World Cup, spending billions, then why can't we provide water, electricity and housing for a handful of shack dwellers."

Jordaan, responding to criticism that ordinary South Africans did not benefit from the billions made during the World Cup, said the event had created 329 000 sustainable jobs.

He said 1.4 million people had passed through the country's land and sea borders during the month-long event and half a percent of the country's economic growth could be attributed to the event.

He said the government's main objectives - nation-building, boosting tourism, improving infrastructure and creating jobs - were achieved.

Jordaan appealed to South Africans to draw on the "positive spirit of the togetherness" that existed during the tournament.

"The World Cup has redefined who we are. It has repositioned and rebranded our country. People are looking at us differently.

"All the negativity about our country people were saying we can't host the World Cup, we don't have the capacity - all those things are gone. Now we need to find a way to take this forward as a country."

Jordaan is on his way to Europe to do duty on Fifa's technical inspection committee, which will report on the feasibility of countries bidding to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup events.

Jordaan said he had not yet decided whether to return to local football administration. That decision would be made after he had enjoyed his holiday in September.

"I need a rest," he said.

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