• Games loss could boost World Cup bid

    With Durban being stripped of the right to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, expect minister of sport Fikile Mbalula to throw his ‘102% commitment’ behind South Africa's 2023 Rugby World Cup bid. GARY LEMKE reports.

    The dream is over. South Africa won’t host a Commonwealth Games, nor will it host an Olympic Games. Nor will Africa for that matter.

    Previously, there had been talk that hosting a successful Commonwealth Games would be the launchpad for Africa to stage the Olympics for the first time. It’s not going to happen, with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) taking the 2022 Commonwealth Games away from Durban.

    The CGF chief executive David Grevemberg, said, ‘Having measured the progress made by Durban 2022 against the bid commitments, we felt we had no choice to take this decision.’

    It was at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow where Durban 2022 organisers outshone the Canadian city of Edmonton in a presentation. Amongst those behind the microphone was the minister of sport, Fikile Mbalula. ‘If you give [the Games] to Africa we guarantee you our 102% commitment in making it successful. Do it for Africa,’ the sports minister said.

    A year later Durban was officially endorsed but 18 months down the road it’s ended in humiliation.

    Where was the ‘102% commitment’ to make Durban 2022 successful? It has been reported that the Games would have cost some R8-billion to stage and that government baulked at supporting it financially, but if those figures are true and government was unlikely to back the bid, why did the minister of sport say there would be ‘102% commitment’?

    Many will argue that by being stripped of hosting 2022, South African taxpayers have dodged a silver bullet. The decision has come to a relief for many, who feel that R8-billion is much better invested in other areas, like housing, education and the health care system.

    However, what I’m eagerly awaiting next is government’s stance on the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Will they decide to throw their support behind that bid instead, presumably reaching a behind closed doors decision that they couldn’t endorse both 2022 and 2023 and reckoned that a Rugby World Cup would be more acceptable and profitable to the economy?

    I would imagine that’s what we are going to see – the minister of sport backtracking on his April 2016 threat to stop all bidding for major events because of his unhappiness with transformation, and throwing his ‘102% commitment’ behind a 2023 Rugby World Cup bid.

    ALSO READ: Kiwis backing Ireland’s World Cup bid

    Many South Africans will throw their hands up and say, ‘Hallelujah’. I don’t share that sentiment.

    For me, one of the sad things about Durban losing 2022 is that South Africa will forever be a ‘Big Three’ sporting country. Rugby, football and cricket rule. We’ve hosted all three sports’ World Cups and now we’re looking to double up on them, starting in 2023. What of the other sports?

    South Africans like to call themselves a sports-mad country, but we’re not. We’re sports mad about those ‘Big Three’ codes and the fact there won’t be a Commonwealth Games or an Olympics coming for a couple of decades, at least, if ever, is a body blow to the young people of this country who want to grow up emulating the likes of Wayde van Niekerk, Caster Semenya or Chad le Clos. They won’t be able to represent their country in a major multi-code sports event in front of their home people.

    For years we have been trying to build an Olympic culture, but losing the Commonwealth Games bid is a sad day.

    It also raises serious questions for me about the future of the Commonwealth Games. If it’s not all-inclusive and if it’s unable to spread the global word amongst its federations, then what’s the point in going on?

    You can’t stage a Commonwealth Games every four years and leave Africa out of the loop of hosts. The same applies to the Olympics. What message is being sent? It enforces all those hurtful stereotypes, that Africa is a breadbasket and unable to be trusted to run a major multi-code sports event.

    We know that we can host a successful Rugby World Cup, a Cricket World Cup and the Fifa World Cup. We’ve done it before.

    We had every possible opportunity to make that ‘Big Three’ circle bigger. We were given Durban 2022 to showcase South Africa as a country capable of staging a major multi-code sporting event – and we blew that opportunity.

    As Grevemberg, the CGF chief executive, said, ‘We are sad, of course we are, but particularly for the people of South Africa.’

    Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Post by

    Gary Lemke