This is the text from my original article on Durban 2020, published on June 27 last year. At this stage, the World Cup was still going on and we were the first paper to really look at the Olympics. We were, in all honesty, way ahead of the pack on this one.
DURBAN plans to build a new swimming pool, indoor arena complex and an Olympic village to host nearly 20 000 athletes should it win the rights to host the Olympic Games in 2020 or 2024.
The city, with its compact Kings Park sport zone, is seen as the front-runner to host the country’s expected Olympic bid. Hosting the Olympics would come at a cost of tens of billions to the country’s taxpayers.
While the announcement of a South Africa Olympic bid by the South African Sports Confederation and Sports Committee (Sascoc) is not expected until after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Durban in July next year, there is already speculation that the country will put its name forward to host the Games.
Sources, including municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe, said this week it was far too early to speculate on the cost of hosting the world’s biggest sporting event, but previous hosts have forked out between R43 billion (Sydney 2000) and R334bn (Beijing 2008). The London 2012 bid, officially, will cost R108bn, but it’s speculated this amount could almost double by the time the event is held. The projected price tag of the 2016 Games to be hosted in Rio is R100bn.
Cape Town previously made a bid for the Olympics, but lost to Athens for the 2004 Games. The city beat Durban and Joburg in a three-way internal bid, but many thought Durban was unlucky.
Architect Ruben Reddy, who sat on the panel that looked at the various cities’ bids in the early 1990s, said Durban’s advantage was that much of the infrastructure needed for the Games was in place, notably the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
The World Cup cost Durban between R7bn and R8bn, city treasurer Krish Kumar confirmed yesterday. Central government grants provided most of the funding.
Reddy said Durban was able to host almost all of the 28 Olympic sport codes “in a grid from the Umgeni River to the harbour, and the beachfront to the CBD”.
“This would make Durban the tightest Games ever,” he said, and would also slash the cost of hosting the event.
Sutcliffe told the Tribune this week that Durban had planned its sporting infrastructure spending on a long-term strategy that would turn the city into the world’s sporting capital.
“In the past five years our developments have been organised around our 2010 and Beyond strategy, ensuring that whatever we do for the World Cup is in line with what we believe we should do post-2010.
“Obviously, it would be great to host an Olympics, a Commonwealth Games or World Athletics Championships, all of which Africa deserves. We believe Durban is Africa’s sporting and events capital,” he said.
He would not be drawn on whether Durban would formally announce its intention to bid or whether this would be made known only after the IOC’s 123rd congress next year.
“Only after the government and Sascoc have decided South Africa will bid for an Olympics will we prepare a report for the city’s executive committee and council to decide whether Durban will put its name in the ring as South Africa’s preferred host city,” he said.
Sutcliffe said “preliminary work” for a potential bid found the city would “need to work on, in particular, an indoor arena, swimming and equestrian centres”.
Some thought apparently has already gone into where an Olympic village could be built, with the old drive-in site on Masabalala Yengwa (NMR) Avenue suggested. The village could be used for flats after the Games.
Reddy said an international broadcasting centre would also need to be built to take up to 10 000 journalists who cover the Games. The centrum site next to the International Convention Centre could be used for this, he suggested.
However, British investigative journalist Andrew Jennings, who has written extensively on corruption in the IOC and Fifa, believes hosting the Games would not be beneficial.
“Nobody can afford the Games. The budgets are always pitched low by local boosters, then soar,” he said.
The only way to make it sustainable, he said, was to hold the Games in one place for a few decades, saving on the building of new facilities.
“But if that happened, the IOC would have no international clout and their backsides would not be kissed by monarchs, presidents and prime ministers. And there would be no kickbacks from the construction industry,” he said.
But a South African bid looks likely following comments by President Jacob Zuma this week that the country had shown it was capable of hosting big sporting events.
“We have the facilities. Those who take decisions (about hosting major sporting events) have seen how South Africa is. I’m sure we could do it. I will put it on the agenda because it is important to bring people from all over the world here. Sport is very important to us.”
IOC president Jacques Rogge has backed a potential African bid.
“I’d love to have a credible African candidate chosen for the next Games in 2020,” he said in a German radio interview last week.
Should the bid take place, Reddy and veteran sports journalist Neal Collins believe Durban is the firm favourite to host the event.
“Durban is an ideal city to host the Olympics. Apart from the location of all the stadiums, just look at the weather. The games take place at the end of July and in early August – the most beautiful time in Durban. The weather is perfect at that time of year,” said Reddy.
Collins said no other city had the infrastructure already in place to host the Games in such a small area. Both believe that it is possible to have the remaining infrastructure in place by 2020, even though the city will probably only know in 2013 whether it will host the Olympics.