Next - the Olympics, says Sports Minister
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Durban - Commonwealth Games 2022, and next the Olympics. That’s Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s plan.
“They (the Olympics) will come,” he told a press conference at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Friday.
“The government will lead that process,” he said, adding that all that remained before South Africa once again prepared for an Olympic bid was “a question of time and space”.
“Those are the only things left. The Commonwealth Games will come before the Olympics, but South Africa will bid for the Olympics, whether it’s here (in Durban) or in Rustenburg.”
Friday’s press conference marked Durban submitting in London on Monday its bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
They are scheduled to open on former President Nelson Mandela’s birthday, the day he would have turned 104.
However, the city, which is the sole applicant for the games after the withdrawal of Edmonton, Canada, will hear only in September whether its bid has been confirmed.
The Canadian city, in the oil-producing Alberta province, withdrew for financial reasons sparked by the drop in the global oil price.
Mbalula defended criticism of Durban hosting such a costly event, saying that Durban, unlike Edmonton, had all the facilities in place.
So far, R6 billion has been budgeted for the games, with R1.5bn already in the city’s budget for the athlete’s village, and R1bn coming from the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee.
A further R2bn is to be sought from the national Treasury for the development of facilities.
Glasgow paid R8.6bn for last year’s Commonwealth Games.
Mbalula said Durban’s facilities were uniquely all within a 2.5km radius, except for the cycling venue in Pietermaritzburg and the shooting range on the Bluff.
“No new stadium has to be built,” Mbalula pointed out.
Alec Moemi, the director-general of Sport and Recreation, said having all venues close to one another would not pose transport problems, as events would be staggered.
He also said the traffic authorities had a strategy around moving people.
Houses in an athletes’ village at Cornubia would later become subsidised housing for people too poor to enter the housing market and too well off to qualify for RDP houses.
The city’s transport infrastructure would also be improved between now and the games.
Upgrades at stadiums included a new track to meet Commonwealth requirements at Moses Mabhida, as well as the upgrading of the Rachel Finlayson pool on the beachfront to accommodate 5 000 spectators.
DA councillor Nichole Graham said there could be benefits to hosting the Commonwealth Games. However, her party did not believe the city should hand over a blank cheque for the games, adding that the 2010 World Cup experience showed many added costs came after initial budget announcements.
She also said the city had other priorities.
“There is a basic services crisis, and the rates base is not getting bigger. Until we get our basic services right, we should roll back major projects, especially when we are not sure what will come of them.”
Lilian Develing of the Combined Ratepayers’ Association questioned projections that the games would bring in R12bn in direct expenditure.
Meanwhile, South Africans who have participated in previous Commonwealth Games threw their weight behind Durban.
The city’s home-grown Chad le Clos said he would “be there”.
“It’s most exciting to swim in front of a home crowd. We have waited for a long time,” he said.
He said he hoped his younger brother, now 15, would be “in peak form” in seven years’ time.
Four-time SA Olympian Ryk Neethling has also backed Durban, saying he has “no doubt” the country would host a successful tournament.
“It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the athletes and coaches.
“It will improve sports overall in the country and leave a legacy of good sports facilities in Durban.”Independent on Saturday