South Africa again takes centre stage in the hosting of a global sporting event when it hosts the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) 123rd Session in Durban from 4-9 July 2011.
This is the first time in the 117 years of the IOC - since the very first session in Paris, France back in 1894 - that the event is being hosted in Africa. This comes one year after South Africa hosted one of FIFA’s most successful ever World Cups.
At least 2500 top world sport administrators, royalty, government leaders and media are expected to descend on this coastal city for the biggest biannual meeting of leaders in global sport.
The highlight of the 2011 IOC meeting will be the July 6th announcement of the winning bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. The three bidding cities, Munich (Germany), Annecy (France) and PyeongChang (South Korea) are expected to bring huge bid delegations.
The choice of South Africa for the 2011 IOC session reaffirms the recognition of the country’s expertise in hosting global sporting events and its emerging economic status. Since 1994, South Africa has hosted several major international sporting events, including the Rugby World Cup in 1995, African Cup of Nations in 1996, the Cricket World Cup in 2003, the Women's World Cup of Golf annually between 2005 and 2008 and last year’s FIFA World Cup, the first ever hosted on African soil.
The successful hosting of the FIFA World Cup 2010 provided an opportunity for Africa to be repositioned as a destination of choice for tourism and emerging market investment.For South Africa, the hosting of global events is seen as an opportunity to boost the economy and create jobs. The country actively pursues such opportunities and already, 200 meetings and conferences have been secured over the next five years. This is expected to boost revenue by R1.6 billion.
Miller Matola, CEO of the Brand South Africa said: “We welcome the delegates and guests to the 123 general session of the IOC. The hosting of such a great event will make a direct contribution to tourism revenue and we are confident that the experience of delegates in South Africa will turn them into brand ambassadors for the country.
“As a proud host country for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, South Africa delivered a truly memorable and world-class African tournament, as the world experienced Africa’s rich diversity and imbibed in the spirit of ‘ubuntu’; which relates to humanity’s interconnectedness.
The overwhelmingly positive international coverage of the World Cup countered Afro-pessimism and South Africa surpassed even the most optimistic expectations. The reputational boost that was generated will be felt for years to come.”
The international Olympic movement played a major role in isolating the apartheid state before 1992 and readmitted the country to international participation two years before the formal transition to the democratic state in 1994.
“Given the divisions of the past, sport remains an important vehicle through which to unite South Africans and develop communities,” Matola said. “Having the IOC in the country is also an affirmation that the government supports all sporting codes, even though football, rugby and cricket attract so much attention”.
The IOC session will put the focus again on the Olympic sporting codes and will provide an opportunity for South Africans to interact with the IOC leadership and prominent athletes.
Sentimentally important will be a reception during the period of the IOC meeting marking the marriage of IOC member Prince Albert of Monaco and the South African Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock.
Later this year, the country is scheduled to host COP 17, the largest gathering of world leaders and civil organisations to discuss climate change. There are huge expectations around this meeting and all eyes of the world will once again be on South Africa.