Hosting of Mega Sports Events in Southern Africa: Durban 2022 Commonwealth Games

 

Sports tourism is now an important and an indispensable component of the world travel and hospitality business. The numbers of people travelling to mega sports events is unprecedented and has increased dramatically over the years. These numbers comprise of athletes, officials, journalists, sport sponsors and most importantly, the spectators. 

This is the reason why major cities such as London, Paris, Tokyo, Melbourne, Beijing and Moscow are always vying to host one international event after another in sport and recreation. This increases the volume of visitors coming into their countries and maintains the profile of the cities as destinations of choice for travellers from various continents.

In some countries, permanent companies and organizations have been established to assist sports associations to submit quality bids for major international events. Such companies and organizations ensure that there is all-round expertise to support national governing bodies or associations who, in most cases, are run by boards made up of mostly volunteers and secretariats comprising skeletal staff.

This is actually a more viable option or arrangement instead of having ad-hoc bid committees that come and go with specific projects. The ad-hoc arrangement does not allow for accumulation of valuable event management information and knowledge transfer to future generations. The Regional Tourism Organization of Southern Africa (RETOSA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) can play critical roles in terms of assisting the sports sector to attract events to the region.  The various regional integration efforts and initiatives can only benefit from such an organized and collective approach.

Durban is in pole position to be granted the rights to host the 22nd Commonwealth Games after the withdrawal of the Canadian city of Edmonton. A final decision in this regard will be made by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) on September 2, 2015 at the General Assembly to be held in Auckland, New Zealand. The coming of the Commonwealth Games to Durban has the potential to boost tourism not only in South Africa, the host nation but Southern Africa as a whole. 

Tourism attractions such as the Victoria Falls, Okavango, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Maputo and Lake Malawi can be added incentives for visitors to Southern Africa who can afford to travel around the region. Obviously, South Africa will benefit a great deal as the direct hosts of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. However, pre-games and post games tourism packages can be developed to take advantage of the presence of visitors from 71 Commonwealth Nations and territories. The time for planning and preparation is now.

After having successfully delivered a memorable single sport event, the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it is only logical that South Africa should graduate to the next higher level of hosting a multi-sport major event. As much as people have made a lot of noise about the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games coming to Africa, it would be like jumping a step in the ladder of progress.  Should Durban succeed in hosting the Commonwealth Games, it will be the first time that such a huge event is coming to African shores.

The experience gained at such an event would be very useful for bidding for future Olympic Games. More importantly, the event will be another huge marketing factor not only for the development of sport but other economic sectors as well. It can be utilized to boost the profile of not only South Africa but the region as a whole. 

To this end, conferences, exhibitions and fairs can be organized in the region in order to take advantage of the unparalleled attention and focus on Durban, South Africa and Southern Africa.

When the 2010 World Cup came to South Africa, a good number of countries in the region, were ill-prepared in terms of taking advantage of the event. 

The Durban 2022 Commonwealth Games will provide yet another test case of how the region responds to opportunities presented by mega events to raise its profile and generally transform the lives of people in the various countries.  Mega events provide opportunities for all levels of business, ranging from the big corporates right down to the informal sector of street vendors selling curios and artefacts.

Sports organizations and their partners should not just host expensive mega events for the sake of it. Hosting of these events must be in tandem with and contribute to broader regional strategic goals. Although, by and large, South Africa has the capacity to host such major events, it still needs the assistance of the region in terms of specialized expertise and even volunteers to deliver a memorable event.

Furthermore, other countries in the region can also bid to host other continental and world events in the build-up to 2022.  This will raise awareness about Southern Africa and what it can offer to international tourists and business people. Experiences from other regions have proven beyond reasonable doubt that sports events are not just about the fun and games but have a huge economic impact. This is very important for the alleviation of unemployment and eradication of poverty in the region. It is therefore important that once Durban is confirmed, which is a mere formality, execution of plans already drafted should be put into motion.

As the wise elders have always said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Sport events must contribute to the transformation of Southern Africa. Failure is not an option!

March 2015
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