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The 2020 Olympic Games: What are South Africa’s chances?

10th August 2010

By: Denis Worrall


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In the aftermath of what has universally been described as a very successful South African-organised World Cup, thoughts immediately turned to the Olympic Games and specifically, of course, to the 2020 Games. Having just returned from a three-week visit to Europe, I can categorically say that all doubts about Africa's ability to organise a major event have been swept away. The South African World Cup is seen to have been exceptional and raised the bar as far as the world's premier football tournament is concerned. So there is no question that South Africa could organise the Olympic Games. In fact, The Financial Times, in a glowingly positive report, announced: "South Africa will bid to host the 2020 summer Olympic Games, fresh from its triumphant staging of the World Cup."

Aside from Nelson Mandela himself, the decisive consideration which worked in South Africa's favour - notwithstanding the scepticism at the time - was that the World Cup had never been held on the African continent. And the very same argument applies in relation to the Olympic Games. With the 2016 Olympics set for Rio de Janeiro, Africa is the only continent which has not hosted the Olympics.


This is an extremely powerful argument which needs to be developed and promoted at a very early stage.

According to the same FT report, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban are all keen to host the Olympics. At this stage the only city that has put its hat in the ring for the 2020 Olympics is Rome. And against Rome, if this is managed sensibly, any one of the South African cities must stand a very good chance.


However, my impression is that Durban has taken the initiative and is in the lead. But it is crucial that Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg sit down at a very early stage - and I mean very early - and agree which one is going to be the host city. We cannot afford division and we cannot afford differences of strategy as to who should take the initiative.

Secondly, we need to start campaigning at a very early stage. And in this regard we have to remedy a deficiency of the World Cup competition in South Africa. While South Africans spoke of it as the "African" World Cup, the fact is that Africa didn't support the event. Africans did not come to the party when South Africa initially applied; and African participation in the event - whatever the reasons - was feeble. What is critical is that the South Africans, having agreed on which city should host the Games, should aim to get every country and every major city in Africa behind us.

From a South African perspective, the World Cup undoubtedly had many positive benefits - not all of them material or economic. We are a people that constantly needs uniting, and a country that needs challenges. And the World Cup contributed enormously in the sense that everybody - regardless of race - was a South African and proud to be one. And remarkable is that this didn't happen because of our football prowess but simply because we were immensely proud as South Africans to have the World Cup taking place in our country.


Adding to interest by the way, is the fact that we could also see the Formula One in South Africa before 2020. Bernie Ecclestone has for years said that he wants a Formula One in Cape Town - in fact the track was to have been situated near the Cape Town International airport with everybody being able to view Table Mountain in the background. That, said Bernie, is essential. For a variety of reasons - one being that the South African government was preoccupied with other things and with getting the World Cup - this didn't happen. But for those who don't know it, Mr Ecclestone has been back in South Africa recently and again confirmed his commitment to having a Formula One in Cape Town. A site is available, there are strongly motivated people behind the project, and there is no reason - other than needing some serious investors - why we should not have a Cape Town Formula One.

These are all very exciting developments and add to the prospects of a South African city hosting the 2020 Olympics.

Denis Worrall,
Omega Investment Research
Cape Town, South Africa



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