Durban has laid the ground for a potential Olympic Games bid by announcing its intention to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Neither of the events has been held in South Africa, but Durban indicated it was hoping to break the mould by staging the 22nd Commonwealth Games in eight years.
Durban city manager S’bu Sithole said last night it was time for an African city to host one of these major sports events.
“Events of this magnitude, for any city, will be good to host, and a lot of preparation will need to go into it.”
But there was still no official position on making a bid by the city, he said.
“However, we do hope that getting the Commonwealth Games will be a stepping stone to getting the Olympics.”
Last month Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula was quoted as saying South Africa would bid for the 2024 Olympics and also wanted to host the Commonwealth Games two years before that.
It is a major shift in policy for South Africa which said last year that the cost of hosting an Olympics would be too high.
Durban was touted to bid for 2020, but plans were put on ice after the government said it would be too expensive. Since last year, there have been several signals of a change of heart.
Yesterday also saw the Canadian city of Edmonton, host to the 1978 Commonwealth Games and the 2001 outdoor athletics world championships, declare its 2022 interest.
Confirmed bids are due to be lodged in March 2015, with formal consideration by members of the Commonwealth Games Federation taking place at their general assembly in New Zealand in September next year.
There have been concerns about the long-term viability of the Commonwealth Games, an event mainly open to countries that were once part of the British Empire, in an era in which increasing importance is placed on regional championships, not to mention Olympic and world competitions.
But, before this year’s event in Glasgow, federation president HRH Tunku Imran of Malaysia welcomed the prospective bids from Durban and Edmonton, saying: “This is an exciting development for the Games movement, one that reinforces the Games position on the world’s sporting stage.
“The future outlook for the Commonwealth Games is extremely positive.”
South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) president Gideon Sam said Durban’s prospective bid was proof of the country’s commitment to international sport.
“These are exciting times for South African sport,” he said. “Over the years we have shown our ability to stage the biggest sporting events, with (1995) Rugby and (2003) Cricket World Cups being an example, plus of course the 2010 Fifa (football) World Cup.
“We’ve done exhaustive background work and are now of the opinion the country is ready for a major multi-code sports event and we are proud to announce our intention to bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
“It’s a huge step forward in our history and that of the African continent,” he added. - The Mercury and Sapa-AFP