South Africa's debate: What good are the Games?
August 25, 1997
Web posted at: 2:13 p.m. EDT (1813 GMT)
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNN) -- As Cape Town waits to learn
if it has been chosen to host the 2004 Olympics, its
residents debate the value of such an honor.
Winning the Summer Games would help erase the legacy of white
minority rule by narrowing the gap between rich and poor,
says Chris Ball, who heads Cape Town's Olympic Organizing
"Cape Town is a classic apartheid city," he told CNN. "There
is a historic distortion not only in terms of residence but
also in terms of the distribution and location of
But while Ball sees the promise of athletics bringing
economic development, other Cape Towners argue that such
development is needed right away and should not rely on
bidding for the Olympics.
'The sport here' is survival
Ivan Williams, leader of a group called "Stop 2004 Olympic
Bid," calls sporting events largely meaningless to South
Africans struggling to survive.
"The sport of the community living in this area is getting up
at four in the morning, going to the boiler rooms of the
South African economy and returning at eight at night ...
That's the sport that they enjoy," he said.
Although vocal, Cape Town's anti-Olympics movement is
limited. Community leaders such as Sam Dube believe the
majority of the city's people will only benefit should the
city's bid succeed.
"There are going to be houses and the railway line is going
to be diverted in order to accommodate the housing
development that is going to take place in this area," he
President Nelson Mandela, who also supports Cape Town's bid,
has pointed out that while the five Olympic rings symbolize
the world's five continents, the Games have never been held
The International Olympic Committee votes on a site for the
2004 Summer Games on September 5. The other candidate cities
are Rome; Athens, Greece; Stockholm, Sweden; and Buenos
Whether successful or not, Cape Town's status as a finalist
city has already led to changes.
A group of young girls who will turn 16 in 2004 are already
in training in a dilapidated building in hopes of being on
the South African Olympic gymnastic team The 16 girls were
chosen from 10,000 applicants in disadvantaged areas.
They now await to what amounts to a decision on their future.
If the Cape Town bid fails, it's unlikely there will be
sufficient money for their training program to continue, says
Piet Swart, their coach.
Johannesburg Bureau Chief Mike Hanna contributed to this