Durban to beat its Olympics drum

The following is an article posted on Times LIVE.

Olympic Rings

Photograph by: EDDIE KEOGH via TimesLIVE

Durban is preparing to catapult itself to the head of the queue as the host of the 2020 summer Olympics.

In July, an expected 2000 affiliates and guests of the International Olympic Commitee (IOC) will take over the city for its 123rd annual meeting – a first for Africa.

The gathering, from July 4 to 9, will allow Durban to display its wares when the name of the host city for the 2018 winter Olympics is announced.

Among those due to attend is Fifa boss Sepp Blatter, a key figure in securing the 2010 World Cup for South Africa, as well as A-list dignitaries, royalty and heads of state .

Durban has already played host to Fifa at the 2007 preliminary draw for the World Cup.

Tubby Reddy of South Africa’s Olympic governing body, Sascoc, this week had the fifth and final meeting with IOC officials and declared the city ready to host the Olympic movement’s plenary session.

Reddy said of the July gathering: “It’s a major opportunity. Of the 115 IOC members who are coming, 99% will be making the final decision in Buenos Aires in 2013. That’s why it is so important – impressions stay.”

The city – despite facing competition from Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth – is the frontrunner, thanks to the King’s Park sports precinct.

It boasts the Moses Mabhida Stadium, which was built for the World Cup, the Sharks’ rugby stadium, King’s Park Aquatic Centre, athletic facilities, country club and Umgeni River.

Reddy said that after the plenary session, he would start the formal process ahead of the announcement of South Africa’s candidate city by September 1.

The key to Durban’s chances is ensuring that the plenary session is faultless.

The communications manager of King Shaka International Airport, Colin Naidoo, said airport staff were already working to avoid a repeat of the debacle during last year’s World Cup, when scores of VIP jets on the tarmac prevented many fans from reaching the semifinal match between Spain and Germany.

Durban has built a reputation as a top sports destination. Established annual events include the Durban July horse race, the Comrades Marathon and the Dusi canoe marathon.

Virtual Tours

Take a virtual tour of the Alf Engen Ski Museum and the 2002 Winter Olympic Games Museum.

Come visit us and see the Museums in person. Admission is free and we are open 7 days a week from 10 am – 6 pm.