POSTED: December 11th 2009

Durban fired by Rio in chase for Olympic hosting gold

Arching over Durban / lake images
Arching over Durban / lake images

KEIR RADNEDGE in South Africa / Sports Features Communications

DURBAN, Dec 11: Durban is dreaming of “doing a Rio” and using the World Cup as a platform towards a first-ever continental hosting of the Olympic Games.

No-one dare say so on the record. That would breach political protocol. However the intention screams out at any observer of the sports strategy of Africa’s largest port.

In Copenhagen in October, a Durban delegation saw Rio de Janeiro beat off competition from Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo to win host rights to South America’s first Games in 2016. That will be a mere two years after Brazil hosts football’s World Cup.

Durban city and sports directors understand the precedent. South Africa hosts the World Cup next June and July and Africa has never yet welcomed the Games. If Rio can break the mold for South America then why not Durban for Africa?

Strategic plan

Durban’s new Moses Mabhida stadium will stage seven games during next summer’s World Cup. However, this is but one venue in the King’s Park Sports Precinct emerging from the city’s strategic plan entitled 2010 and Beyond.

Observers who attended the World Cup qualifying draw in Durban just over two years ago would be astonished by the stadium.

Back in December 2007 this writer was among a capacity crowd who attended a derby duel between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in the old King’s Park Stadium.

In the time since then King’s Park has been razed to make way for the magnificent new stadium - built complete with an arch which puts Wembley to shame (So for that matter does not only the speed of construction but the cost, at around 3.1bn Rand - £250m).

Originally the city had planned to redevelop King’s Park but visits to Frankfurt, Berlin and Wembley convinced officials that it made more sense to build anew.

Temporary seats

A 70,000 capacity for the World Cup will be reduced to 56,000 by the subsequent removal of temporary seating but an increase to 85,000 for, say, an Olympics, is possible.

The Mabhida arch was a design afterthought but is not merely pretty decoration. Visitors, even up to a few hours before a game, can step into a glass-box viewing car which climbs the arch to a spectator platform a stunning 106metres above the pitch.

For the record it is the longest arch of its kind in the sporting world with a weight equivalent of 2,287 elephants. It has to be one of the seven wonders of the African sports world.

Add in the beach front for the World Cup Fan Fest plus the new King Shaka airport and it’s no surprise, Durban is selling itself as the sports and events capital of Africa. At least it can continue throwing money at consolidating that image over the next six months while World Cup enthusiasm is rife.

Next door to Mabhida is the iconic Kingsmead rugby stadium and close by are athletics, swimming and archery venues.

Machine gun

Leading the World Cup delivery project is Julie-May Ellingson who talks up the overall project with a machine-gun rapidity which personifies the sense of Durban’s race against time.

The immediate challenge for the city is to establish its Olympic credentials ahead of domestic competition from Cape Town and Johannesburg. Already Durban has a head start, with confirmed hosting of International Olympic Committee events next July and December.

Ellingson, a member of Durban’s observer delegation in Copenhagen, says: “We don’t talk directly about the Olympics but we can say we have the right weather. The Olympics are in August which is winter in Cape Town while Johannesburg has altitude . . .”

Picture (above right): The Durban stadium arch from below / lake images

Keywords · Durban · World Cup · Olympic Games · Olympic bids

For more information contact:
Laura Walden ()

All original materials contained in this section are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Sports Features Communications, Inc the owner of that content. It is prohibited to alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.