The 123rd International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session featured a spectacular official opening ceremony in Durban on Tuesday evening. The Session, the first time it has come to the African continent, will on Wednesday see the announcement of the host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Three cities will be bidding for the privilege Munich in Germany, Annecy in France and Pyeongchang in South Korea.
A wide range of distinguished guests from around the world were entertained by traditional dancers, spectacular acrobatics and were treated to the vocal skills of Afro-jazz ace Abigail Kubekha and the award-winning Ladysmith Black Mambazo group.
Speaking at the ceremony, held at the Playhouse Theatre in central Durban, Gideon Sam, president of South Africa’s Olympic governing body SASCOC, said it was a huge day for South African sport.”Durban, and indeed the entire country of South Africa, is honoured to play host to such an important event, and for the sports fraternity it cannot be more opportune as we set our sights on ever bigger events to come to the continent of Africa.
“To the three cities… I have no doubt that all three of your bid committees have put together extremely compelling cases… however we must remember that just as in sporting events, there can only be one winner.”Also at the opening was IOC Executive Board member and SASCOC member Dr Sam Ramsamy, who was born in the KwaZulu-Natal city. “The honour of hosting the Session was given to us at the IOC Session in Beijing, China in 2008. We are certain that, by the end of the Session in Durban, we will all return home relishing the fact that the choice was indeed the right one.”
In his speech, IOC President Dr Jacques Rogge paid tribute to South Africa’s role in the Olympic movement. “South Africa has demonstrated the power of sport in many ways so it is altogether fitting that the new South Africa has earned an influential role in the Olympic Movement in a very short period of time.
“Your Olympians have competed with honour and distinction and you have contributed to our Movement in other important ways.
Later in the evening Rogge was honoured by South African President Mr Jacob Zuma who bestowed upon him the country’s highest national decoration, the Order of the Companions of O.R Tambo, in recognition of the solidarity and commitment to human rights and dignity.
In his address, President Zuma said: “This Session is special as it provides an opportunity to recognise the outstanding contribution of the IOC, and of Dr Jacques Rogge in particular, to the fight against apartheid and to the development of non-racial sport in South Africa.”Presentations of the three bidding committees will be made during the course of the day on Wednesday and the announcement of the 2018 host city is expected to be made by Dr Rogge sometime after 5pm SA time.