Change of Guard and for the IOC: Hope for Africa

 

The Olympic Movement has spoken. There has been a change of guard at the helm of the most powerful organisation in world sport, the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IOC voted into power new leaders for the organisation at the recent congress held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 

It was very much expected that Thomas Bach of Germany would take over from Jacques Rogge of Belgium as president of the IOC. Bach survived challenges from Puerto Rico’s Richard Carrion, Singapore’s Ser Ming Ng and Dennis Oswald of Switzerland, among other aspiring candidates.

“I want to lead the IOC by my motto, unity in diversity. I want to be a president for all of you,” said Bach in his acceptance speech. 

Having made this pledge, I am sure that many sports leaders and enthusiasts will want to hold Bach to his word in the coming years of his leadership of the IOC. 

Regarding Africa, there is a crisis of expectations. Africa is one continent that is yet to host the global showcase of sport in the form of the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

The South African city of Cape Town did bid for the 2004 Olympic Games but lost out to Athens. There is now talk of Durban submitting a bid for the 2024 Games. Although the Durban bid is yet to be officially confirmed and launched, Africa’s sports fans can only hold their breath waiting firstly for the bid to be formally launched and then for the competitive processes to be undertaken leading to the announcement of the winning city some time in 2017.  

South Africa has serious developmental challenges as a country with some of the most acute disparities and inequalities in the world in terms of wealth distribution. Hosting the Olympic Games will be a big drain on the resources in a country with rampant unemployment and abject poverty. 

Critics are already sharpening their swords as they prepare to attack any “extravagant” plans to host the world’s premier sports event. We have heard these arguments and comments before. Why waste billions of dollars on an event that will take just two weeks when there are other more urgent developmental priorities? To be quite honest and fair, there are very much convincing and interesting factors for and against an African bid for the Olympics. 

The successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup is a big plus factor in South Africa’s favour but the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games are a completely different and massive proposition. The 2010 FIFA World Cup helped to portray Africa in a different light away from the usual negative stories of civil strife, hunger poverty and disease. There is need to continuously project a global image of Africa as a place of genuine, warmth, friendship, opportunity and prosperity in order to transform the continent. 

 A lot of work is needed to ensure that Africa is indeed a destination of choice for investment and tourism but there is no denying the fact that it faces massive competition from other parts of the world. In this connection, hosting events such as the Olympic Games helps to raise the profile of a city, country and indeed a continent. 

There is so much excitement about the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as it is the first time for South America to host this prestigious event. 

In 2020, the Olympic Games would have been hosted four times in Asia, as Tokyo hosts them for the second time after having done so previously in 1964. The games have also been held in Seoul, Korea, in 1988 and Beijing, China, in 2008. 

In addition, the first Youth Olympic Games, a legacy of the Rogge’s IOC leadership, were in Singapore in 2010. In 2014, these games will be held in Nanjing, China. 

Hosting of these multi-sport major games is indeed a mammoth task requiring colossal investments in infrastructure and human resources.  What does the future hold for Africa, then? Only time will tell, but it is indeed refreshing and encouraging to hear the new IOC President emphasising “unity in diversity”. This is the essence of life. 

FIFA President, Sepp Blatter might not be a favourite personality within European football but he has certainly endeared himself to the rest of the world by re-branding world football as something that should be enjoyed by everyone and not just the Europeans and South Americans. Like him or hate him, when he eventually leaves FIFA, Blatter will leave a legacy of a world game, which unites people from diverse backgrounds. 

Football now appeals to all people regardless of age, gender, physical ability, socio-economic, political, racial or ethnic background. It is now in a much stronger position than it was, say, 40 to 50 years ago. Although incidences of corruption within FIFA have ensured that Sepp Blatter is not exactly covered in glory, he has managed to convince people that he is indeed everyone’s president. He has done so by actively promoting the interests of hitherto disadvantaged and underprivileged groups and regions of the world.

To this end, the gripe against the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has shown clearly how the gurus of European football want everything in football to revolve around them, their calendars and their interests. The system might not be perfect but Qatar won the bid fair and square.  

Nobody complained bitterly when Germany pipped South Africa to win the rights to host the 2006 World Cup. There was general dissatisfaction but life went on. 

Using the Qatari example, there is a dire need to promote diversity in world sport in order to make major events truly global and relevant to all people. Of course, there is need for reason to prevail with a view to ensuring that global standards are upheld in terms of event organisation and management. 

The Southern Times Sports Forum warmly welcomes Thomas Bach to the helm of the IOC. 

We know he has received numerous congratulatory messages from prominent world political and sports leaders and that he will be getting many invitations to visit various events, organisations and countries. We pray that he will find time to visit Africa more often than his predecessors did. We are also sure that he will find more than enough friends in Southern Africa. As a president for all of us, we trust that he will provide that much needed hope and encouragement for the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held on this beautiful and beloved continent for the first time. 

Welkommen Herr Bach and we wish you all the very best of luck and success during your tenure as IOC President!

 

 

 

 

September 2013
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