*Queen’s baton relay team arrives Nigeria in April
South Africa voiced disappointment Tuesday that Durban had been stripped of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, blaming financial disagreements but vowing to host major tournaments in the future.
Commonwealth Games chiefs confirmed on Monday they were looking for a new venue after Durban failed to meet “key obligations” during its preparations.
“(The government) wishes to express its disappointment at the announcement… despite all the efforts and the positive responses,” sports minister Fikile Mbalula said at a press conference in Durban.
“Clauses in the agreement were seriously going to compromise South Africa and government was not prepared to sign an open-ended guarantee.”
Mbalula insisted that South Africa was ready to host other global sporting events, and said that 2023 rugby World Cup officials were in the country on an inspection visit.
“South Africa remains a premier destination for such mega sporting events and our solid infrastructure holds the country in good stead,” he said.
Following the meeting in London, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) said it was “actively exploring alternative options” but gave no further details.
Durban 2022 — which had adopted the slogan “Ready to inspire” — would have been the first Commonwealth Games to be held in Africa.
The city on South Africa’s east coast was named as host in 2015, but Mbalula said last month that the government and the CGF had not reached agreement over costs.
Both the 1995 rugby World Cup and the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa are seen as milestones in the country’s efforts to promote national unity since the apartheid era.
Liverpool, in northwest England, has previously said it could be prepared to host the 2022 Games if they were not in Durban.
The Commonwealth Games are restricted to countries that are members of the Commonwealth, a collection of nations that were mainly once part of the British Empire.
It was known as the British Empire Games when first staged in 1930. The 2018 Games will be hosted on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Meanwhile, in a related development, the Queen’s Baton Relay will commence in Lagos from 1st – 5th April, 2017.
The Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports Development formally commenced an awareness programme to herald the arrival the Queen’s Baton Relay team in Nigeria Tuesday at a media briefing in Abuja.
The event which is the traditional curtain raiser to the Commonwealth Games is expected to be received in Lagos by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari.
Speaking at the media centre of the Abuja National Stadium, the NOC President Engineer Habu Gumel described the pre-event media chat as an important day in the history of the event preceding the commonwealth games.
“The Queen’s Baton relay is coming all the way from Buckingham Palace, London and will tour over 70 commonwealth countries in preparation for the Commonwealth Games in Australia.”
Gumel revealed that the Queen’s Baton relay which Nigeria hosted alongside other commonwealth nations in 2005, 2009 and 2014 ahead of the Melbourne 2006, Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014 games left London on Monday, 13th March 2017 enroute other commonwealth countries.
“It is a very important event to us. We have hosted it on many occasions, received by the president of Nigeria. This time around, we are planning to do more in commemoration of this great and iconic event.”
In his remark, the Minister of Youth and Sports, Barrister Solomon Dalung described the Queen’s Baton Relay as a media event with the overall objective of creating the needed public awareness for the Commonwealth Games.
According to Dalung, the 388 days journey covering over 70 Commonwealth nations will be accompanied by a five man international team expected to berth in Nigeria in line with the tradition of the commemorative event.
“I wish to invite all our media friends to join us as we celebrate the Queen’s Baton relay in Nigeria, using it as the platform for awareness and generating corporate and public support for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.”
“Permit me to use this medium to inform all concerned, that the countdown to the 2018 Commonwealth Games has begun. We must therefore, put our acts together to ensure a robust preparation and successful outing for Team Nigeria at the Games,” Dalung said.
The media event had in attendance, the Acting Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Alhaji Salau AbdulRazak, NOC General Secretary, Tunde Popoola, Mrs Hauwa Kulu Akinyemi, Director Federations and Elite Athletes Department and other top management staff of the Ministry.