Hosting Sports Events – the Next Level

The hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa was indeed a historical achievement and a source of pride, not just for the host country, South Africa, but also for the continent as a whole.
The 2010 FIFA World Cup announced Africa’s arrival on the world stage in terms of the major leagues of sport business. Having proven beyond reasonable doubt that, given an opportunity, Africa can host fabulous events, the onus is now on other African states to put their best feet forward and bid to host other single sport or major multi-sport events.
There is need for Africa to work towards bidding for and winning major events such as the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. Probably, in preparing for these multi-sport games, it would also be prudent for the African countries to adopt a gradual approach whereby they bid to host the youth versions of the games, being the Olympic Youth and Commonwealth Youth Games. The youth versions could provide useful test cases and dress rehearsals for the big events.
South Africa’s bid to host the Olympic Games in 2004 in Cape Town and the 2006 FIFA World Cup did not succeed as they lost out to Greece and Germany, respectively. However, this did not dampen their spirits as the country eventually won the bid for the 2010 FIFA Cup and, as they say, the rest is history.
South Africa has indicated that it could bid again to host the Summer Olympic Games in the near future.
Much to their credit, the city of Abuja, Nigeria, lost out to Glasgow, Scotland, in the bid to host the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The 2014 Abuja Commonwealth Games bid showed great ambition but it was not backed by technical finesse and financial muscle. Admittedly, Nigeria and indeed the rest of Africa are still on a learning curve when it comes to bidding for and successfully organising major events.
However, the rest of the world is not going to stop and feel pity for Africa. The great sporting shows of the world are still going on and being organised in other parts of the world and benefiting those countries and regions.
Just like the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Africa’s bids for major events must be robust.
Although the rotation policy was adopted and later abandoned by FIFA, it has merit. Major events should not continuously go to countries or regions that have hosted them in the past. However, much as it may benefit Africa, the rotation policy might kill the innovative drive of African sports administrators, businesses and governments in putting together exciting bids thereby competing at par with the rest of the world. Rotation should not be based on sentiment or imply dilution of world-class standards for event organisation simply because it is Africa’s turn to host.
Just like in economics, trade and business, Africa has to compete even if it has to play “catch up” on many fronts and aspects of life. Sport administrators can help in promoting and entrenching this competitive spirit in Africa. The days of begging and waiting for aid and handouts is over. Yes, countries and regions of the world have become more and more interconnected and interdependent. It is no sin to ask for assistance when it is needed but one must always seek to control their own destiny as well as work towards achieving greater autonomy and independence.
Africa and especially the beautiful Southern African sub-region with its relative peace, stability and economic prosperity should not be spectators while other countries and regions are jostling to host major games and events. Africa’s competitors are not stupid in fighting to host various single and multi-sport major events. Major single and multi-sport events are catalysts for the development of economies, creation of infrastructure and jobs in the host countries. In addition, these events are a means of international branding and promotion of foreign direct investment (FDI) and on-going tourism traffic to the host countries.
In seeking to promote the hosting of major events by Southern African states, there is need for co-operation among stakeholders such the Confederation of Southern African National Olympic Committees (COSANOC), business houses and governments. Consultative seminars and training workshops must be convened nationally and regionally to develop brands, strategies and themes to support bids and organisation of major events.
Sport is no longer fun and games. It is a big multi-billion-dollar business capable of transforming Southern Africa if the region can get its fair share of the cake in terms of hosting events. However, there is need for deliberate planning to put up credible business cases for the hosting of major events. Southern African sports confederations must work to raisethe standards of event organisation within and among member states.
International benchmarking is also very important, as it will help to inform the bids that countries put together. Setting and achieving world-class standards in sport event organisation can be costly. However, it is actually more expensive and damaging in the long-run to wallow in self-pity blaming lack of financial resources required to bid and host events.
African sports administrators should not get excited about travelling to other parts of the world without working to bring the world to Africa. It is sheer madness!
The era of business as usual is over.
Sports leaders should not let premier events go by without taking deliberate steps to host some of them within the region. Southern African countries such as Angola, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, individually, can, for example, comfortably host the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) world championships or other prestigious events if they plan and work diligently towards accomplishing relevant assignments.
Things are changing and, hopefully, the hard work and achievements of sport leaders like Danny Jordaan will help to inspire the development of a new brand of dynamic and innovative sports leaders who can take the region to the next level in terms of hosting of major events. The region sorely needs this calibre of sports leaders, who are motivated more by a burning desire to contribute to sport rather than benefit from their positions in sports administration.
Rise up, Southern Africa, rise up! You can accomplish what you will!

April 2013
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