Boost for Durban's Olympic ambitions
Sipho Khumalo and Suren Naidoo
11 August 2008
Durban's bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics has been given a major boost, with the International Olympic Committee picking the city - ahead of Hong Kong - as the venue for the IOC General Assembly's congress in 2011.
The IOC made the announcement in Beijing ahead of the opening of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games last week.
The 2011 congress - where the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics will be announced - will see thousands of influential personalities, accompanied by a major international media contingent, descending on Durban, giving the city and KwaZulu-Natal province exposure to more than one billion TV viewers.
It will also give those behind Durban's bid for the 2020 Olympics the ideal opportunity to canvass high-ranking IOC chiefs for the city to host the global spectacle.
Ethekwini municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe, speaking from Beijing, described the IOC's decision as "an incredible honour".
It will be the first time the IOC hosts such a prestigious meeting in Africa, and will enable South Africa to "pay tribute to the legacy of all great Olympic athletes from Africa, and assist us as we entrench the Olympic spirit among our people."
South African Tourism CEO Moeketsi Mosola said the announcement confirmed South Africa's international status "as a world-class tourism destination capable of hosting global events of the magnitude and stature of the IOC congress in 2011.
"It shows the kind of confidence that the IOC has in South Africa and Durban – following our country hosting major events like the 1995 and 2003 rugby and cricket world cups; the African Nations Cup in 1996; the Twenty20 Cricket World Cup last year; and the big 2010 Fifa World Cup."
Durban Tourism acting chief executive Perry Moodley said hosting the IOC congress was a strategic move in light of the city's ambition to host a Summer Olympics.
"Getting Olympic decision-makers from around the world in Durban is most important. We want them to see the infrastructure we have and are building. We believe the city has a strong chance of hosting an Olympic Games," he said.
The International Olympic Committee's 123rd General Assembly in 2011 will be hosted at Durban's nd award-winning International Convention Centre.
This article was first published in The Mercury. Republished here with kind permission.