Counting cost to sportsmen of losing Durban Games

Boxing brothers Ricardo, Dino, Miranda, Louis and Carlton Malajika at the Booysens Boxing Gym in Johannesburg Picture: Alon Skuy / The Times
Boxing brothers Ricardo, Dino, Miranda, Louis and Carlton Malajika at the Booysens Boxing Gym in Johannesburg Picture: Alon Skuy / The Times

When one counts the cost of losing the 2022 Commonwealth Games‚ you can start with Ricardo and Miranda Malajika.

They are the youngest of five boxing brothers in the south of Johannesburg‚ poor as your proverbial church mice and as talented as the best I have seen in this country – amateur or professional.

They were among the many young sporting hopefuls who could have benefited from a financial investment into sport that had been planned for the Games.

The Durban bid had promised to set aside R1-billion for the development of athletes‚ not just those at elite level‚ to catch the 15- and 16-year-olds in 2015 who would be hitting their prime by the 2022 Games.

Ricardo‚ a multiple South African age-group champion and a gold medallist at the under-20 Regional 5 Games in Angola last year‚ could well have been a recipient of that money.

Miranda‚ a losing finalist in his category at the national tournament last year‚ would have been deserving‚ too.

Boxing needed a boost in SA. Since readmission at the 1992 Olympics‚ local amateur boxers have struggled.

Bongani Mwelase has won SA’s only gold medal at a Commonwealth Games since then.

There were no SA boxers at last year’s Rio Olympics.

Durban 2022 could have resuscitated boxing‚ and it could have boosted other struggling sports‚ like hockey‚ which also missed out on the Brazil showpiece last year.

The recent successes of swimming and athletics could have been consolidated and amplified.

Team SA could have exceeded the 10 medals of Rio 2016 – the country’s best Olympic haul since 1920 – at 2020 and the 2024 Games.

When calculating the cost of losing Durban 2022‚ do not forget the nearly R120-million spent on the bid by the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).

That money came from the Lottery‚ effectively paid for by you and me.

The Games would have cost more than R8-billion – some R6.6-billion for capital expenditure and the rest for an operational budget.

But an economic impact report submitted with the bid showed that hosting the Games would boost GDP by R11-billion. If those figures were correct‚ that sounded like a win for the country. Manchester 2002‚ Melbourne 2006 and Glasgow 2014 were said to be profitable.

The investment in upgrading venues did not have to be only for the 2022 Games.

The Moses Mabhida Stadium was supposed to get a state-of-the-art athletics track‚ and with minimal further investment‚ the city could have bid for a world athletics championships down the line.

Had they decided to upgrade the King’s Park swimming pool complex – instead of constructing a temporary pool on the beachfront – they could have done the same with swimming.

If nothing else‚ SA swimming is in drastic need of a modern Olympic- sized pool.

And what about Durban bidding for the Africa Games in 2027?

Several of those Games venues could have been used two times over‚ if not three.

There are some who argue that losing 2022 is a blessing in disguise‚ because of the hidden costs.

Even if that is true‚ it does not hide the incompetence behind this fiasco. Heads should roll‚ starting with Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and his director general‚ Alec Moemi.

They allegedly asked the cabinet for R2-billion less than the Games budget required. Their accusers say that is why they started trying to negotiate with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), to make up the shortfall.

The government hijacked Durban 2022 from Sascoc‚ which was supposed to be the interface between the government and the CGF‚ the international body.

Normally, it is the relevant sporting body in the country that fronts all hosting efforts.

You did not see government officials running the 1995 Rugby World Cup‚ 2003 Cricket World Cup and 2010 Soccer World Cup. Louis Luyt‚ Ali Bacher and Danny Jordaan were the faces of those events.

That does not exonerate Sascoc‚ which kick-started the Games bid back in 2013.

They failed because they were too weak to stave off government interference‚ and they were too silent when it happened.

Sascoc might argue they did not want to go public‚ but none of the individual sporting federations I spoke to had a clue what was going on.

Sascoc president Gideon Sam‚ Durban bid committee chairman Mark Alexander (who as president of Saru will be involved in the bid for the 2023 Rugby World Cup)‚ and the other board members linked to the bid should resign.

But nobody will go voluntarily. They do not have the integrity or the guts.

The politicians and administrators will stick it out as long as they can‚ and that will be to the cost of sport in this country.

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