SA game for the Olympics

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IOL news july 23  Olympics

REUTERS

SA is eyeing afresh a bid for the 2024 Olympics in the wake of the Games in London, with Durban a frontrunner.

Durban - South Africa is eyeing a fresh bid for the 2024 Olympics in the wake of the Games in London, with Durban a front runner as the host city.

On Wednesday Tubby Reddy, chief executive officer of the SA Olympic Committee and Sports Confederation (Sascoc), said they had already commissioned a feasibility study on a 2024 Olympic bid.

Expected to be done in two to three phases and completed next year, it will determine which city would be best suited to make the bid on behalf of the country.

South Africa was originally in the running for the 2020 Olympics until the government decided to withdraw to focus on social priorities, but it did hint about a 2024 bid.

This feasibility study ties in with the Sports and Events Tourism Exchange (SETE) conference and exhibition, to be held in Durban next month, where a 17-year plan will be discussed and decided on with the National Sports Tourism Steering committee.

Conference director, Sugen Pillay, said the committee was tasked by Sascoc with developing and implementing a national strategy that would outline the key sports events which Sascoc, and its federations and partners, will be bidding for between 2013 and 2030.

“Almost a year of research and careful planning and preparation is set to come to fruition when the recommendations of the strategy are discussed and adopted at the forthcoming conference,” Pillay said.

He added that the strategy would also look at how South Africa would bid for such events and also look at the capacity of each city.

From Daily News discussions with Sascoc, the national Department of Sports and Recreation, the eThekwini Municipality, the Durban Chamber of Commerce, tourism and sport authorities, Durban emerged as the city of choice should the country submit a bid for the 2024 Olympics.

Durban won the pitch to host the SETE conference at the ICC for the next three years.

Last year the conference was held in Cape Town where the steering committee was established.

Reddy said the first phase of the study would look at the year-to-year plan targeting hosting international events, and the second phase would look specifically at the Olympics.

When asked if Durban would be a shoo-in as host city, Reddy said Durban was the focus city when South Africa had intended to bid for the 2020 Olympics. He also issued a reminder that he was born in Durban.

He also said Sascoc would also focus on infrastructure – what was already in place and what still needed to be done.

Andrew Layman, chief executive officer at the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said when there was serious talk about the country making an Olympic bid, there was strong support from the chamber.

“Since the government decided not to bid, things have changed quite considerably.

“The global recession has bitten, government has committed to a huge spend on infrastructure and the national and provincial development plans do not include the Olympics.

“I’m not sure, therefore, what the chamber’s formal position on this would be. I think if the South African government were to revise its position and nominate a city to be the host, we would want it to be Durban which, we believe, would be a very suitable host city,” he said.

He said Durban managed large events very well and its facilities had been well positioned and were of a high standard.

“It remains to be seen what the financial advantages would be,” he said. “There are reports from the UK that the Olympics didn’t draw as many people as a visit to the UK at the same time in other years.

“It is pretty clear, I believe, that the yield comes only from the tourism prospects, either for the Games themselves or, importantly, afterwards once the destination has had good global publicity.”

Layman said staging events of this nature involved expenditure only – the host did not make money from the gate or from sponsorship.

“It has to be seen as an investment in tourism, I think. Without knowing exactly what is required, I think Durban probably has at least the major facilities required, except for an Olympic village.

“I don’t think there is any chance that Durban could make a bid without significant support from the central government. We don’t have the money.”

Looking at costs of hosting the world’s biggest sporting event, Beijing 2008 was R334 billion. According Britain’s Guardian newspaper, which conducted a poll, the British population thought the the games were “well worth” the £9bn (R115bn) pricetag, cheering the nation up as it battled recession.

The projected price tag for the 2016 Games to be hosted in Rio is R100bn.

According to the eThekwini Municipality, the 2010 World Cup cost Durban between R7bn and R8bn. Last year, DA councillor Tex Collins voiced concern over the cost of a bid that failed, saying the city would be seriously out of pocket. He also said the Games would create job opportunities and a financial benefit but said this windfall would be short term. He felt the Olympics would be a great idea but not if Durban ratepayers had to foot the bill.

Municipal spokesman, Thabo Mofokeng, said Durban would be guided by government on whether it would bid. It would also consider feasibility, he said.

It would further require financial support from national government and the province.

Mofokeng was confident Durban would have an edge over other cities because it had “the best facilities that can handle any sporting code and also has skilled people to host the best events in the country”.

Last year Jochen Farber, the director of communications for the German bid for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games, briefed Durban about its bid and said a lesson Durban could benefit from was “don’t build what you won’t use later”.

Former municipal manager, Dr Michael Sutcliffe, told newspapers last year that thought had already been given on where an Olympic village would be built: the old drive-in site in Masabalala Yengwa (NMR) Avenue, which could be used for flats after the Games.

Justin de Allende, special adviser to Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, felt Durban was definitely bid-worthy.

“The first thing one looks at is a stadium and infrastructure costs and Moses Mabhida Stadium has been designed to host international events.”

Durban, he said, had the perfect climate and natural facilities. He explained that should South Africa submit a bid there would first have to be an internal bid process (among the bigger cities) and cabinet would make the final decision.

“Government would have to be on board as it is Brand South Africa that we are promoting. The focus is on 2020 for now so there is still time to decide on 2024. By 2016 we would start looking,” he said.

Lihle Dlamini of the KZN Tourism Authority said the 2010 World Cup put Durban on the map and the city was still basking in the glory.

“We also hosted the International Olympic Committee last year. We’ve proved to the world we can be a good host.”

She also said the tourism industry would benefit as many would be staying in the city for the first time.

Wayne Ridden, a South African swimming team coach at the 2012 Olympics, was also behind Durban, saying it would be just as good as London and Sydney.

“There would be lower costs in comparison to the UK as we already have most of the infrastructure. The Kings Park pool, though, would need to be upgraded. I hope Durban goes for it.” - Daily News

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