Africa's Olympic Potential

Economic growth across the African continent makes the prospect of holding the Olympic Games there an exciting one. Former IOC president, Jacques Rogge, had a desire to bring the Games to Africa, with Egypt, Kenya and Morocco considered as potential hosts. I am confident that the new IOC executive will embrace this dynamic continent, with its passionate sport-loving youth, and that an Olympic Games in Africa will be secured in the not-too-distant future.

So, in anticipation of this, we should give thought to how this could be realized on a practical level. Most African countries are not currently in a position to hold such events, and poor infrastructure presents great obstacles to would-be organizers. In the coming years, we must work to ensure that Africa develops the capacity to host such a Games: it would tap into the continent's history of athletic achievement as well as pointing toward the future.

South Africa offers an example of the successful organization of a major global event in Africa: in 2010, the FIFA World Cup was held there. Its legacy includes Soccer City in Johannesburg, a stadium that operates sustainably and has a creative and efficient management, its revenues supported by the crowd-drawing power of two popular football clubs (the Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates). But elsewhere in South Africa, the World Cup legacy is patchy. Some stadiums are not used often enough and they cost a lot of money to maintain. As Carlos Amato, a football writer for the Mail & Guardian and the Times in South Africa, wrote: "The World Cup did show us what South Africa could become, but we are a long way from that."

Establishing a powerful legacy is, of course, a vital outcome of any major games. Effective planning before and during these events has been linked to leaving an enduring mark in the years that follow. In their shared organization of the Africa Cup of Nations 2012, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea got this right. Because investment was split, the tournament enabled them to develop their infrastructure in a reasonable way and the division also helped to keep ongoing maintenance at a manageable level. In the process these two countries have shown the world that they were able to organize such a large and challenging event.

My home country Morocco is another that is making great strides in its sporting infrastructure. The King has announced the creation of a sports city in Tangier as part of the Tangier-Metropolis five-year development plan. Tangier is one of four Moroccan cities that will host the 2015 African Cup of Nations (Morocco also hosted this tournament in 1988) and the sports minister has announced that they will bid for the 2026 World Cup.

On the pitch and on the playing field, Africa's accomplishments are widely recognized. Africans won 35 medals in Athens, 40 in Beijing and 34 in London. Three nations lead, with Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa representing most of Africa'a medals. Bringing more large sporting events to Africa would help the continent develop sports policies, and at the same time optimize its peoples' chances of achieving competitive success.

Global sports tournaments have a range of benefits that go far beyond the games themselves. They can transform the image of a country or a region. They bring people together and reveal new possibilities to a nation's youth. We do not yet know where the Olympics will be held in 2024 or 2028 but Africa's capacity to stage sporting mega-events will have grown exponentially by then. We are extremely lucky to have been awarded the organization of the African Games in Congo-Brazzaville in 2015 - 50 years after they were 'born' there - and we look forward to updating you on the leaps and bounds undertaken by Africa!