AUCKLAND (Reuters) - The South African city of Durban was selected as the host for the 2022 Commonwealth Games at the Federation’s general assembly in New Zealand on Wednesday.
The coastal city was the only bidder for the multi-sports event after the Canadian city of Edmonton withdrew from contention in February, citing falling oil prices.
Organizers said the Games would be held from July 18-30, opening on the birth date of the late South African president and anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela.
“It gives me great pleasure to welcome the South African city of Durban as proud hosts of the 22nd Commonwealth Games,” the outgoing CGF president Prince Tunku Imran said.
“As a movement we stand together to support the very first games on African soil.”
The Commonwealth Games are held every four years and feature athletes from over 50 countries, mostly former British colonies.
First held in 1930, 2022 will mark the first time the Games will be held in Africa, a move that could pave the way for South Africa to make another attempt for the Olympics after Cape Town finished third in bidding for the 2004 summer Games.
“We are ready to host the Commonwealth Games for the first time on African soil,” CGF vice-president and South African Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam said.
”The fundamental premise of our submission is that the Games will provide the opportunity at both an economic and social level in particular the development and inspiration of young people not only in South Africa but the rest of the Commonwealth.
“Youth empowerment sits as the core of our legacy program, a legacy that will begin with your awarding of the Games.”
The CGF evaluation commission recommended in July that Durban should be awarded the Games but also expressed some concerns about possible funding shortfalls and the approach organizers were taking to financing and developing venues.
It also sought guarantees on the risk associated with the construction of the athletes village, which is being built as part of a wider urban development scheme to address housing shortages in the Durban area.
Bid chief executive Mark Alexander added the Games have been factored into South Africa’s long-term infrastructure and social and economic development strategies and would serve as a catalyst for that spending.
The country’s government estimated that hosting the Games would deliver up to 20 billion rand ($1.49 billion) in output to the economy, translating into an additional 11 billion rand GDP growth.
”All of our plans fit into the country’s 2030 development plans,“ Alexander told reporters. ”What it (the Games) will do is accelerate the infrastructure development.
“It will accelerate grass roots sport development and it will create job opportunities and boost tourism in the area.”
Sam added the Games had given the country the added incentive to prove to the rest of the world that Africa could host sporting mega events.
The country has hosted World Cups for rugby, cricket and soccer in the last 20 years, with the Moses Mabhida Stadium, that was constructed for the FIFA World Cup in 2010 to hold the athletics competition and the opening ceremony.
More than 80 percent of the sporting disciplines would be held within a precinct with a 2.5 kilometer radius, close to the Indian Ocean.
The next Commonwealth Games will be held at Australia’s Gold Coast in 2018.
additional reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Julian Linden/Sudipto Ganguly