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Monday, November 9, 2009

2010 World Cup head calls for African Olympics

A successful World Cup in South Africa will increase the pressure on the IOC to bring the Olympics to the continent for the first time, the chief organiser of next year''s soccer showpiece said on Sunday.

Danny Jordaan, chief executive of South Africa''s World Cuporganising committee, said the decision to award the 2016 Olympics to Brazil "opens the way to the African continent in 2020".

Rio de Janeiro became the first South American city to be awarded an Olympics when it won the race to host the 2016 Games last month.

Jordaan, speaking in a Reuters interview, said the selection of Rio de Janeiro left one glaring omission for the International Olympic Committee to address.

"I think that 2020 must be Africa''s turn," Jordaan said. "The fact that the Olympics now has gone to Rio and to South America leaves Africa the only continent since 1896 still waiting."

He said the choice of Rio over Chicago and other cities "indicates also that there is a shift in the thinking of the IOC that developing countries must be considered".

Jordaan added: "So I think that the IOC will be under pressure to seriously consider an African bid and part of that of course is a highly successful 2010 FIFA World Cup that will increase that pressure.

"We understand the importance of a successful World Cup in our country." He said South Africa, the biggest economy in Africa, would have a strong case if it decided to bid for the Olympics because existing infrastructure was a key factor in winning the Games.

South Africa is still dealing with concerns about security, transport and accommodation for the World Cup, which runs from June 11-July 11 next year.

Organisers are expecting 450,000 foreign visitors for the first African World Cup, which is being held in a country with one of the world''s highest rates of violent crime.

Jordaan said that security questions were being taken extremely seriously and he pointed to the lack of major problems associated with recent high profile sporting events in the country, including the Confederations Cup, the British and Irish Lions rugby tour and Indian Premier League cricket.

"We have 9.5 million tourists every year to South Africa -- surely we would not have seen a one million year-on-year growth in tourism if it was not a destination where people can come on vacation and be safe," Jordaan said. "(Security) is a matter that we take very, very seriously."

Jordaan said winning the right to stage the World Cup was an event as important for South Africa as the release of Nelson Mandela from jail and the end of apartheid in 1994.

"When the envelope was opened and it was South Africa, I think it was almost a second liberation for us," Jordaan said. "It was a huge moment of joy."

He said it was crucial for South Africa''s national team -- who have suffered a string of recent defeats -- to do well in the World Cup if all races in the country were to "get connected".

"It is a very important issue," he said.

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