Week 30 (12 - 18 April 2014)
There are increasingly frequent voices supporting an African bid for the Olympic Games. The latest high-profile advocate is 1988 Olympic silver medallist and member of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, Amadou Dia Ba.
Although his faith in his continent’s ability to deliver an Olympic Games is strong, Dia Ba is certainly not one-eyed in his assessment of Africa’s current sporting environment.
In an interview with French language Olympic news website, Francs Jeux, Dia Ba, who was a 400m hurdler, said:
“There are many [priorities in African sport]. First, infrastructure and competitions. We are lacking in both. Elite athletes are not helped and supported enough.”
Yet he finished his interview with an impassioned pitch for Africa to host the Games, and to host them sooner rather than later, saying:
“I don’t think it is too early to do it. No one thought we could host the FIFA World Cup but South Africa succeeded. And Morocco will host this year the IAAF World Cup. We will have to really commit and have the political support but it is time now.”
The contrary nature to Dia Ba’s two comments above does raise one question: how can a continent be ready to host the Games when its sporting landscape is struggling to stage domestic competitions?
The answer, which Dia Ba alludes to, could lie in South Africa’s staging of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Although the tournament was hosted at an overall net financial loss to the country, the investment in infrastructure and in South Africa’s sport economy in general – in 2013 South Africa staged the highest attended edition of the Africa Cup of Nations in its current 16-team format – mean the final impact on the country should be regarded as positive. Having seen how the FIFA World Cup benefitted Africa, it’s no wonder Dia Ba wants the Olympic Games to deliver another huge boost to the continent.
In this way, Dia Ba’s two statements complement each other rather than contradict.
His comments also hint at a general disregard for where the Olympic Games is staged in Africa, so long as they come to Africa. Dia Ba is from Senegal, a country almost 4,000 miles away from the African country with the best chance of staging the Games in 2024: South Africa. Yet his use of ‘we’ when talking about South Africa’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup and Morocco’s hosting of this year’s IAAF Continental Cup are examples of how Africa, in sporting terms, is one vast united territory.
A crucial component to hosting any sports event is having the goodwill of the people behind the project. If Dia Ba is typical of the majority of Africans in putting support for his continent ahead of his country then an Olympic Games in Africa comes ready-wrapped with one billion supporters. Quite a proposition for the IOC.