CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- This beautiful port city at the tip of Africa is using all its charms in an ambitious bid to become the first African venue for the Olympic Summer Games in 2004.
Snuggled beneath Table Mountain and close to the Cape where the Atlantic becomes the Indian Ocean, Cape Town offers a staggering setting for the world's premier sporting event.
The South African bid faces competition from Athens, Stockholm, Buenos Aires and Rome, but Cape Town remains optimistic that its magnificent setting will prove irresistible. So it is inviting as many as can come here of the 109 men and women on the International Olympic Committee who will make the final choice in September.
"As Magic Johnson said, 'You've got to see this place to believe it'," said Chris Ball, chief executive officer of the official Cape Town Olympics Bid Company, created to organize and promote the town's application. "Invariably it has an extraordinary impact on people. This is our most powerful tool."
Cape Town has other strengths to offer: a plan for accessible, state-of-the-art sporting facilities and comfortable accommodation for athletes, officials and the media, which would all later be turned to local use for the disadvantaged; the full financial backing of President Nelson Mandela's government; an emotional appeal for world recognition of the dramatic and peaceful transition from white minority to black majority rule; and the contention that the games would help foster the much heralded "African renaissance." In less than three months the International Olympic Committee, meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, will make the win-or-lose decision for Cape Town and the other four finalists for the 2004 sports fest.
If Cape Town is to win, it has to overcome some challenging hurdles, including a high crime rate, poor transportation, limited existing sports facilities, and a small but vocal group of opponents who say the money would be better spent on social programs in a country of such widespread need.
Officials here counter that with 30,000 security officers in town for the games there will be no room for criminals. Plans are already in place to overcome the other problems so that all facilities will be adjacent to or within a 10-minute walk of transportation. And being host to the games will produce economic benefit for all, they say.
"We have considerable advantages," said Ball, chief of the bid campaign.
Among those advantages he counts the long-term contribution to youth from investing $20 million in sports facilities in deprived areas and the opportunity to demonstrate the Olympic movement's potential for helping a developing country politically, commercially and socially.
"The staging of the games would be 'Olympism In Action'," says the city's official bid proposal. "The Olympic Movement Charter consists of three pillars: sport, culture and environment. To these the Cape Town 2004 Olympic Bid adds a fourth dimension -- human development.
"We are committed to improv- ing the quality of life of the people of the city, region, nation and sub-continent."
Such high-sounding motives are appealing, but winning the venue for the games is hard work and expensive. The bid effort alone is costing $22 million, financed by the private sector.
"It's pretty awesome," said Ball. "You have a political process, an administrative process and community issues, and the whole politics of sport to deal with."
He pulls no punches trying to impress visiting members of the IOC. When Fiji's representative to the IOC was here recently, Ball arranged for him to lunch with President Nelson Mandela.
Syd Muller, chairman of Cape Town-based Woolworth's, donated $120,000 to help dress the South African delegates to Lausanne in uniforms designed "to turn a few heads."
Cape Town's bid, Muller said, "really has to do with the resuscitation of South Africa, and I guess, in a sense, you can argue for the resuscitation of Africa. It's just that important."
Winning the games is expected to boost the local economy by $7.05 billion by 2006 and $5 billion annually thereafter, creating 95,000 sustainable jobs. The reason: he global publicity for the city as one of the world's most beautiful settings will attract tourism and foreign investment.
"Africa is one of the few untapped markets of the world," said Michael Fuller, the bid company's finance director, on loan to the 70-staff bid company from the accounting firm Ernst & Young.
Under the financing plan for the games here, $1.3 billion for the operating budget would be raised from the private sector, and $1.8 billion in capital investments in transportation, stadiums and other infrastructure would be contributed mainly by the various levels of government -- city, provincial, federal. The federal government would foot 45 percent of the capital costs.
"Our bid is a South African bid. It is not a city bid," said Fuller. It means that the city taxpayers are protected should the games run at a loss. "I think we are on the right track," said Ball. "There is no doubt with a fair wind and good fortune, we can and will win the competition."
Pub Date: 6/11/97