Sat, Nov 11, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Coe backs Africa to host Olympics

'EMERGING NEW DESTINATION' London's successful bid for the 2012 games could serve as a model for an African attempt to hold the world's largest sporting event


Sebastian Coe says Africa deserves to host the Olympics.

Coe, the two-time Olympic 1,500m gold medalist who heads the organizing committee for the 2012 London Games, told African Olympic leaders on Thursday he believes the games will be held on the continent for the first time during his lifetime.

Speaking at a meeting in Blantyre, Malawi, Coe said Africa is "an exciting, emerging new destination for major sporting events."

He cited the All-African Games and Afro-Asian Games and noted that Kenya will hold the world cross country championships next year and South Africa will host the soccer World Cup in 2010.

"All these things point to one thing: Africa must one day host the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games," Coe said. "And I believe that I will be there to see it. I hope that London 2012 can bring the prospect of staging the games in Africa a significant step closer."

South Africa made an unsuccessful bid for the 2004 Olympics, which were awarded to Athens, Greece. No African city is believed to be in the running for the 2016 Games, so the continent's next realistic chance could be in 2020.

Coe said London's plans could serve as model for other cities and continents hoping to stage future Olympics. He cited the use of existing and temporary facilities and plans to scale back the size of venues after the Olympics as ways of avoiding the construction of permanent, costly facilities.

"This is an approach that will ... make it possible to stage major events in a greater number of potential host cities and countries," he said.

Coe also gave details of London's plans to offer grants of up to US$50,000 to help African and other national Olympic committees to use pre-games training facilities in Britain.

"We want the training grants to help teams and athletes from small nations who would not otherwise have the financial resources to be able to prepare their athletes for the 2012 Games," he said.

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