Monday, March 21, 2011

Casablanca could bid for 2020 Olympics !

Casablanca could be set to launch a bid for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, Morocco's Sports Minister Moncef Belkhayat has revealed. This report, by Duncan Mackay in Marrakech, was first posted on Inside the Games and is reposted with permission.

The country's largest city, with a population of three million, has long been touted as a possible candidate to be the first in Africa to host the Games.

Belkhayat has now confirmed that serious planning has already taken place about a possible bid.

"Morocco has committed itself to becoming a great sport nation that stages great sporting events," Belkhayat said during the Africa International Sports Convention (CISA) here.

"Casablanca has a very good chance of positioning itself as a great sports city and organising the Olympic Games.

"One day Casablanca will be organising the Olympic Games."

Belkhayat refused to commit Morocco to a bid for the 2020 Games but left the possibility very much open.

"We will bid for the Olympics soon - whether that it is 2020, 2024 or 2028," he said.

National Olympic Committees (NOCs) have until May 16 to let the International Olympic Committee (IOC) if they are interested in bidding with a final deadline of September 1 to name an applicant city.

Work has already started on a new $300 million (£185 million) state-of-the-art stadium in Casablanca (pictured above) to host the final of the 2015 African Nations Cup, which Morocco was awarded earlier this year.

The Grand Stade de Casablanca is being built in an old quarry and will feature passive solar design with concrete fin-like blades that promote natural ventilation.

Construction on the 80,000 seat stadium is expected to begin shortly and then be completed some time in 2013.

The new stadium is due to replace the Stade Mohamed V, which hosted the 1983 Mediterranean Games.

Belkhayat, a former senior executive with Olympic sponsors Proctor & Gamble before entering politics, wants Morocco to try to host more major events.

They bid for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, losing by only four votes to South Africa.

If Morocco does decide to put forward Casablanca, which is located on the Atlantic Ocean, for the 2020 Olympics then South Africa could again pose an obstacle.

Durban are widely expected to put in a bid but Sam Ramsamy, the South African who is a member of the IOC's ruling Executive Board, said here that if Africa decides to bid for 2020 then the whole continent should get behind one candidate.

Belkhayat, who replaced International Olympic Committee member Nawal El Moutawakel as Morocco's Sports Minister in July 2009, has a big vision for Morocco.

"The sky is the limit," he said.

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