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Is It All Worth It? The hosting of the Olympics in Africa

Since the inception of the Olympics games in 1896 in Athens (Greece), this huge sporting event has been held in every other continent in the world but has yet to grace the African continent. As it stands the Olympics has been hosted on thirty occasions in Europe, twelve times in North American and on seven occasions in Asia with two more set to be on the horizon in 2020 and 2022. Both summer and winter games will be based in Tokyo and Beijing respectively. It’s astonishingly that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) don’t see the urgency to allowing this mega event to be hosted on African soil, even although significant sporting events like the FIFA World Cup, World U18 Championship in Athletics, and the All-African Games have all been successfully held in Africa.

Are we now seeing a change in attitude towards Africans countries creditability to host such an event?

Earlier this year in February 2018, the IOC president Thomas Bach stated there would be a mini-Olympics set to be hosted on the continent by 2022, with the view for an African country to be hosting the full version by 2032. The mini Olympic games will be in the form of Olympic youth games, and as it stands, we have four front-runners who have all registered their interest which includes Botswana, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia. The youth games in 2022 will be the fourth edition of the Olympic youth games.

So why has it taken twenty-eight summer games in over twenty-three cities and twenty-three winter games held in twenty cities since records began for the IOC executive committee to finally be having this conversation about an African city hosting the games?

There are clear internal factors which continue to minimise the prospects of the Olympics occurring in Africa, and I understand these prerequisites, such as sporting and transportation infrastructure, accommodation, telecommunications and many others. Countries on the continent need to find strategies to move from lower income status to middle-income economies and this should be their focus, exceeding a nation dream to host a mega event. We all get it, but surely if FIFA has awarded the World Cup to developing nations (At the time of hosting) such as Uruguay in 1930, Mexico twice in 1970,1986, Brazil also twice in 1950, 2014 and South Africa in 2010. This proves it can be arranged and as the IOC create a set of measures to cut as much as $1 billion from the costs of staging the Olympics it comes at a perfect time for developing nation to fill the void of developed countries shunning hosting the games.

In my opinion, the IOC has blatantly bypassed the prospects of Africa as a hosting destination. For me, examples which also epitomises IOC nonchalance is when you do a comparison with the Commonwealth Federation (CWF) the governing body which manages and operates the Commonwealth Games. Since its inception in 1930, the commonwealth games have been held in 21 cities and nine countries. Amongst those nine countries the commonwealth games have been held in Malaysia in 1998, India in 2010 and were set to held in Durban in South Africa but due to missing financial deadlines were scrapped from hosting. Even though the dream has not been realised and South Africa like when hosting the world cup would have been the first African country to host the commonwealth games I have a higher expectation in the CWF in comparison to the IOC regarding awarding the event to a developing nation.

So what will be the critical factors to the future possibilities of the Olympics hosted on the continent? 

The narrative is changing, and discussion within the IOC executive committee proves there is shifting opinions. As the IOC struggle to find developed nations to put themselves forward for future events, this will continue to prompt the IOC to create measures to lower overall costs for host cities. I believe these future measures will support future bidding cities in Africa as some of the continent nations continue to be the fasters growing in the world and as economies develop, sporting and transport infrastructure see vast improvements its self-evident the quality of life for the masses on the continent will change.

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Dennis Kwasi Boateng

LinkedIn: Dennis Boateng

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