6 July 2011
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) opened its 123rd Session in Durban with a vibrant ceremony at the city’s Playhouse on Tuesday night, with South African President Jacob Zuma in attendance.
During the ceremony, Zuma awarded one of its highest national decorations, the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo, to IOC head Jacques Rogge.
Zuma told the high-profile gathering that the award was made to demonstrate gratitude to the IOC for their solidarity and commitment to human rights in South Africa.
“This historic session presents an opportunity for us to recognise the outstanding contribution of the IOC, and of Dr Rogge in particular, to the struggle against apartheid and racial oppression.
“The IOC General Assembly has not met in Africa since the last gathering in Cairo 86 years ago,” Zuma said. That was a much different Africa, which was still battling the yoke of colonialism.
“The choice of venue is therefore timely and important, given also that Africa is a continent where the Olympic movement has unearthed exceptional individual talents over many years.”
2018 Winter Games host
On Wednesday, the IOC Session will elect the host city for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Munich (Germany), Annecy (France) and PyeongChang (Republic of Korea) are the three candidates.
Representatives of the three bidders, including German President Christian Wulff, French Prime Minister François Fillon, Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak, were present at Tuesday night’s ceremony.
“As a country that has gone through numerous bids, we fully understand the pressure and the anxiety,” Zuma said. “We wish the three cities well with their final presentations.”
Zuma thanked the IOC for supporting South Africa in hosting the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
“We are proud to reflect on the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup as a successful event that brought lasting social and economic benefits to our country and continent … Sport is a powerful instrument of promoting peace, friendship, unity and tolerance within nation states and the peoples of the world.”
Zuma welcomed Princess Charlene of Monaco, a former South African Olympic swimmer who continues to be an ambassador for the country, and her husband Prince Albert.
“We wish them a long life and many years of happiness and success together,” said Zuma.
Meanwhile, Rogge appealed to governments to help the sports world get rid of doping, cheating and illegal betting.
“Protecting the integrity of sport is a priority for the IOC and there is no room for complacency against performance-enhancing drugs, judging and refereeing scandals,” Rogge said.
On the bidding process, Rogge said: “I cannot predict the outcome of the vote, but I can say with confidence that the city selected to host the 2018 Olympic Winter Games will have the capacity to deliver outstanding results.”