Welcome to London, the host city of the 2012 Olympic Games. This is the message that greets you at Heathrow Airport. Despite the sometimes negative attitude of the British to the hosting of the Olympics, it is pretty darn difficult not to notice that London has caught the Olympics fever. From the Games Lane that takes you to Central London and the Olympic Park, to the Cultural Olympiad events happening round the city. There is no mistaken it. A cable car across the Thames has even been built to coincide with the Olympics.
After observing all these, my thoughts invariably turn to Africa and when (maybe if) it will be hosting the games. Cape Town, South Africa was in the running to host the 2004 Summer Olympics but lost to the overwhelming favourite in Athens, Greece. Since then momentum on hosting the Olympics has been lost and the issue is now at a stand still. There a few reasons why things are the way they are.
Chief among them is the fact that Africa hosted the last football World Cup which took place in South Africa (who can forget the vuvuzelas). The World Cup is the biggest sporting event bar the Olympics. So on that front there has been a tick in the box of Africa being able to host a big global tournament. But as the purists would argue, the FIFA World Cup is no Olympic Games.
Another reason is that of economics. The budget for hosting the Olympics is a huge one. London 2012 costs £9billion. No chicken feed for any country, especially african countries. I dare say that no country in Africa can financially afford to stage an Olympic games with the exception of South Africa. And for the reason earlier stated, the political will of the people of South Africa to stage another expensive sporting tournament is very thin.
Does that mean the case is closed for an African Olympics? No. In fact, if there is a region that will benefit from hosting the Games, it is Africa. The next decade has been dubbed the African decade. What better way to announce Africa's arrival into positive global consciousness than to host one next decade.
It is now up to African leaders and the International Olympic Committee to come up with an innovative way to make it possible. The solution has to be one that is affordable and carries the whole of Africa along.
A possible solution is co-hosting of the Games across four, maybe five countries. Track and field events could be held in Nigeria, football events held in South Africa, golf held in Kenya, basketball held in Senegal, tennis held in Morocco.
To those opposed to this idea, I'll say this: 2012 will be the last year, for a long long time, that we'll see the games cost so much. Gone are the days of 2004 when Greece borrowed money to finance the games and are now suffering the consequences. In Britain, more people believe the amount spent on the games is not worth it than those that believe otherwise. Brazil in 2016 will usher in a new era for the Olympic movement. An affordable, value-for-money, something-for-something era. An African Olympics will be viable in this era.