South Africa Sports Minister Still Holds Hope for 2020 Olympic Bid

June 14, 2011

Despite failing to receive government backing for a potential bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, South Africa’s sport minister said today, June 14, that he still wants the country to bid for the event, going against a cabinet decision last month to instead spend money on services for the poor.

Fikile Mbalula claimed that he still hopes to convince his colleagues in President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet to revisit plans for an Olympic bid, which the government vetoed after estimating it would cost around US$50m.

Mbalula stated: “The bidding process is quite open. If we’re able to persuade government otherwise and turn around things, then we’ll still be able to announce (a bid).”

Mbalula collapsed at the May 25 cabinet meeting where plans for a bid were scrapped and was later hospitalised with what the government described as “flu-like” symptoms.

He revealed at a briefing on preparations for a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) next month in the eastern port city of Durban: “From our own point of view, the struggle continues. It’s not all lost.”

Durban had been tipped as a likely bidder for the 2020 summer games after winning praise as a host city during the FIFA World Cup last year. The South African government said it would rather spend money creating jobs and improving services like water and electricity, and spokesman Jimmy Manyi said: “If any money is going to be spent, it’s going to be on basic service delivery.”

South Africa poured $5bn into the first World Cup in Africa and largely overcame fears about crime and poor transportation to host a widely applauded tournament.

However, the country struggles to provide basic services and faces a 25 per cent unemployment rate, issues that have sparked major protests in poor communities in recent years.

Candidates for 2020 must submit their bids to the IOC by September 1. The host city will be chosen in Buenos Aires in September 2013. Doha, Istanbul, Rome, Tokyo and South Korea’s Busan have all shown interest in hosting the event.