Durban 2022 Debacle: What Next?

THE recent news of the withdrawal of the rights of the 2022 Commonwealth Games is sad news indeed for sport not just in South Africa but for the entire African continent.       

One would have thought that when the bid was submitted, the bidders had undertaken thorough research and investigations about their ability to host this mega multi-sports event.

However, that is now water under the bridge as the Commonwealth Games will not be coming to Africa for the first time, as anticipated.

Although the South African Minister of Sport and Recreation has been on recorded as saying that the Durban debacle will not affect future bids for major events, who could not have been further from the truth.

The withdrawal by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) of the rights to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games is certainly a blot on South Africa and Africa’s record.

The Commonwealth Games are an important multi-sport event, which provides young people from the Commonwealth with yet another opportunity to compete against the best in the world.

When it comes to major events, 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 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 upon other African states to put their best feet forward and bid to host other single sport or major multi-sport events.

South Africa had made a big case for hosting mega events but the issues surrounding the collapse of the Durban 2022 efforts have indeed dented South Africa’s image.

Even the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will think twice if South Africa submits a bid to host the Summer Olympic Games in the near future.

Just like in economics, trade and business, Africa has to compete even if  it has 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 hand-outs 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, they is need for cooperation amongst 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 organization 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.  Sport is now an integral component of socio-economic development of many nations, developed and developing. It is estimated that the value of the global sport, recreation and leisure industry will exceed US$20 billion in 2018.

Utilising the power of television, sport has become an important entertainment industry on its own.

Sport now generates significant employment and wealth at all levels. Furthermore, the public health benefits of active involvement in sport and physical recreation have not been really investigated, especially in Southern Africa.

Fit and healthy sports are more productive. They save governments hundreds of millions of dollars in public health expenditures.

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 raise the standards of event organisation within and amongst member states.

International benchmarking is also very important as it will help to inform the bids that countries put together. African sports administrators should not get excited about traveling 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 world championships or other prestigious events if they plan ahead and work diligently towards accomplishing relevant assignments.

March 2017
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