Should ZA Host the Olympics?

When asked during his trip to Japan about the possibility of South Africa hosting the Olympics, President Jacob Zuma gave a positive response. So what might the benefits be? ZA Confidential asked a few experts for their views….

Expert views:

Graham Wood, MD Tsogo Sun:

Can we host the Olympics as a country – of course we can!! We have demonstrated as a country that we can host high-profile mega events, from the Soccer World Cup to the COP17 Climate Change conference. We have superb infrastructure, magnificent stadia and, most importantly, a hospitable approach to all our international visitors who attend these mega events! At some point Africa needs to host the Olympics – and SA is the logical option!

Peter Attard Montalto of Nomura :

SA most likely will make a concerted effort to host the Olympics, and would be able to deliver in terms of building works and projects etc. However the lack of public transport and even hotel capacity I think is far more of an issue for the Olympics – which is geographically much more compact than a World Cup, by definition. We should consider, though, if this is really the best use of money for SA – given there is probably only marginal return on investment for the country. Spending the money on potential growth-boosting infrastructure would probably be better for development in the long run.

Greg Mills from the Brenthurst Foundation:

There are two schools of thought about hosting big sporting and other global events: those who believe it’s a good thing as it promotes the country and focuses infrastructure delivery against a timeline; and those who see it as an investment in unimportant and largely useless bits of infrastructure and a distraction for government. While SA now has some of the necessary infrastructure from the World Cup, and the Olympics would undoubtedly provide an opportunity for a great party for local bigwigs and visitors, the jury is still out on the benefits from the World Cup. Would hosting the Olympics be the optimum use of government resources when we have so many pressing social and economic problems? Why should South Africans be paying for this party? Hosting the Olympics is not a substitute for a failure to deliver better schooling, housing, and other basic services. But none of this is likely to stop those who see the Olympics as offering a feeding opportunity from big government projects.

Michael Tatalias from SATSA:

It’s about time. I am glad to see this idea is back on the table. The Olympics would be of immense benefit in promoting South Africa, and even if we were only finalists in an Olympic bid, it would bring immense benefits in promoting the country.

Leon Louw from the Free Market Foundation:

Few realise what a financial debacle hosting the World Cup was. Only a social psychologist can say whether we benefited enough in terms of national arousal and watching soccer to justify it. The point is that many billions were diverted from welfare, housing, policing, education, health and the like. We are left with moribund stadiums (without maintenance budgets), failed investment in accommodation and transport, and much more for which we lick our wounds. Before deciding to host the Olympics a proper independent cost-benefit analysis should be undertaken, so that South Africans can make informed choices between what we sacrifice in return for what we gain. That calculation must not obfuscate reality with such jumbo-jumbo as “it’s nation-building” or “good for our image” or “brings tourists”. We must know at what price we will enjoy a fleeting “feel-good” high. Like taking recreational drugs, we must familiarise ourselves with all the implications. Having said that, the soccer World Cup was phenomenal and benefits may well have exceeded costs. The tragedy is not so much that we were a nation in denial about costs, as that we squandered the World Cup “dividend” as we did the rugby World Cup dividend, by not sustaining the positive message we sent to the world. We have since been downgraded on every index and by every rating agency. What we should learn from this, but won’t, is that we should not just plan for, say, the Olympics, but ensure that what precedes and follows is in harmony with it.


The first Olympic games in Africa? It would not just be about sport, but about marketing the country. If it happens there will be a lot of job creation, a lot of construction…. and brown envelopes as far as the eye can see?

Tweet of the Day:

Russell Lamberti (@RussLamberti): Zuma, brimming with confidence at SA’s limitless wealth & prosperity, now wants to channel billions into a frivolous 2-week sporting event

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