South Africa to battle Canada for right to host 2022 Commonwealth Games

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The country that once put the Commonwealth Games in serious jeopardy could become the first from Africa to host the event.

On Monday, the South African city of Durban joined Edmonton in Canada as the only bidders for the 2022 Games.

Having never staged an Olympic Games, the bid has been described as a hugely significant moment for Africa.

“We’ve done exhaustive background work and are now of the opinion the country is ready for a major multi-code sports event,” said Gideon Sam, President of the South African Sport Confederation and Olympic Committe (Sascoc).

“We are proud to announce our intention to bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. It’s a huge step forward in our history – and that of the African continent.”

It is also a distant cry from 1986 when the Games took place in the Scottish capital Edinburgh.

Now known as the ‘Boycott Games’, over half the 59 Commonwealth nations refused to compete in protest at the attitude of the government of Margaret Thatcher to sporting links with South Africa, which was then under apartheid rule.

The 32 nations that stayed away mainly came from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, and they put the Games under intense financial strain.

Should Durban win the right to stage the 2022 Games, it would raise the question of when Africa might finally host an Olympic Games.

When Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro stages the Olympics in two years’ time, Africa will be the only continent not to have hosted the world’s most important multi-sports event.

Cape Town unsuccessfully bid for the 2004 Olympics while Sascoc had strongly considered bidding for the 2024 event before deciding against it.

“The ambition is to consider (the) 2024 (Olympics),” a Sascoc spokesperson said in 2011, a year after South Africa hosted the first football World Cup on African soil.

But Sam believes the time is right for Africa to finally stage the Games, following the disappointment of Nigerian capital Abuja to win the 2014 Games.

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) vice-president says South Africa’s previous ability to stagemajor sporting events will hold it in good stead.

“These are exciting times for South African sport,” said Sam.

“Over the years we have shown our ability to stage the biggest sporting events, with Rugby and Cricket World Cups being an example, plus of course the 2010 World Cup.”

Monday was the deadline for nations to hand over official notes of interest for staging the 2022 event, and their late arrival may have caused some concern for Games officials.

Last month, Mike Hooper, the CGF chief executive, said the Games could end in 2018, when Australia will host, should no bidder for the 2022 Games come forward.

Concerns have been growing about the cost of staging the event, with organizers saying that a possible way of avoiding this would be to reduce the number of different disciplines from 17 to 10.

However, Monday’s bids have given the CGF a significant boost.

“This is an exciting development for the Games movement, one that reinforces the Games’ position on the world’s sporting stage,” said CGF president Prince Tunku Imran.

“The future outlook for the Commonwealth Games is extremely positive.”

Edmonton, which last hosted in 1978, will be South Africa’s rival when the awarding decision takes place in September 2015.

“Hosting the games in 2022 will demonstrate to the world how much Edmonton has evolved,” said Mayor Don Iveson in a statement.

Canada was the first country to stage the Commonwealth Games, when Hamilton hosted in 1930, and has held it on three more occasions since.

Both Edmonton and Durban need to hand over confirmed bids in March 2015.

The next Commonwealth Games will take place in the Scottish city Glasgow in July.

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