By Duncan Mackay in Durban

Sam_Ramsamy_in_front_of_IOC_Session_logo_June_2011July 5 - South Africa could still launch a bid for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics despite the Government claiming that it had shelved any such plans, it has been predicted by Sam Ramsamy, a member of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) ruling Executive Board.

Jacob Zuma's Government announced in May that they had decided against a bid because they wanted to devote more resources to improving social welfare in the country.

But influential Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has since vowed to get the Cabinet to change his mind and there is growing optimism that a bid will be put forward afterall. 

"I will not be surprised if the Government is persuaded to go for a bid," Ramsamy told The Mercury newspaper. 

Zuma is scheduled to meet with IOC President Jacques Rogge here later today on the eve of the Session, which is due to begin tomorrow.

"Considering the IOC Session taking place in Durban and with the world's top sports administrators and corporate sponsors coming to the city, strategically we knew it would give IOC members a first-hand perspective of the kind of infrastructure and environment we have in South Africa to host major sports events," said Ramsamy.

"After the success of the World Cup, there was this sudden huge expectation internationally that South Africa would now go for the Olympics.

"The IOC Session was seen as the next big thing in our list of sporting achievements.

"The momentum was created and when the Government said it would not support a bid for 2020, we were disappointed.

"Both the South African Sports Confederation and Olympics Committee (Sascoc) and I accepted and understood the Government's decision not to bid.

"But I personally also knew it would be a valuable lost opportunity.

"I believe that while the iron is hot, we need to strike and take advantage of this momentum.

"It is a dream of mine to see the Olympics come to South Africa or Africa in my lifetime.

"I believe that the Government should review its decision not to bid.

"The Sports Minister wants to take the matter up with the cabinet, but there are also other people lobbying, such as leaders in the tourism industry and IOC community."

Ramsamy is optimistic that a successful Session, which is due to last until Saturday (July 9), will help persuade the Goverment change their mind about a South African bid, with Durban the favourite city to be put forward.

"I am certain that by the end of the session, many IOC members will motivate for an Olympics to come here," he said.

"South Africa was seen as a strong potential contender, especially after the success of the World Cup.

"Even IOC President Jacques Rogge and FIFA President Sepp Blatter have said they would support an African bid."

Rogge, ever the diplomat, reiterated that he wanted South Africa to bid but was careful not to be seen putting any pressure on the Government.

"The IOC would welcome a strong African bid, of course," he said after arriving in South Africa.

"That is something we would want and I am quite sure that it will come.

"This may not necessarily be for the 2020 Games, but we would welcome a strong African bid.

"That goes without saying that I'm not going to discuss the decision of the South African Government.

"We respect that."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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