When will Africa host its first Olympics? Not likely before 2032

Africa is the only continent that has never hosted an Olympic Games. However, with recent economic progress, can we expect an Africa Games in the near future?

Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr

Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr

Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr, a member of the executive board of the International Olympic Committee, reckons the earliest an African country is likely to submit a credible bid is for the 2032 Games. The Olympics is awarded seven years before the actual event.

Speaking at the recent Africa Global Business Forum in Dubai, Samaranch said the IOC is eager to host the Olympics on the continent and would welcome any credible bid from an African city. However, experience in hosting large events, adequate infrastructure and political and social stability will be essential.

He said any bidder should first cut their teeth by hosting smaller sporting events such as the World Swimming Championships or the Youth Olympics. “It is a long process but it leads eventually to a credible bid that we would very much welcome.” He highlighted South Africa, which hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as a possible contender.

His job is to convince cities about the benefits of hosting the Games. He explained the Olympics offers cities, and indeed countries, the opportunity to develop their infrastructure and shape global perceptions of themselves. Hosting the Olympics provides “extraordinary fuel for growth,” according to Samaranch.

Part of an established development plan

It’s a fair assumption that most African cities hosting the Games will need to invest considerably in infrastructure such as roads, stadiums and accommodation.

However, these days the IOC is focused on awarding the Games to cities where the new infrastructure won’t become “white elephants”, but leave a positive legacy. Hosting the Games must to be part of a city’s established development plan.

Samaranch explained that if a city needs to build a new hospital for doping control during the Olympics, the hospital should not stand empty after the Games. While it would be more convenient to have a hospital close to the stadium, the IOC would prefer it on the other side of town where it will serve the community for years to come.

He singled out Barcelona and London as two examples of cities that benefited from hosting the Games.