Tag: commonwealth games

South Africa vows Commonwealth Games will ‘heal wounds’

Durban was as officially named as host of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. (Pic: AFP)
Durban was officially named as host of the 2022 Commonwealth Games on September 2. (Pic: AFP)

South Africa on Wednesday promised to deliver a world-class event when the city of Durban hosts the 2022 Commonwealth Games, saying the occasion would help the country overcome its turbulent past.

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 after the apartheid era.

The Commonwealth Games in Durban, on the east coast, will be the first to be held in Africa.

“We are excited to see our efforts bearing good results,” the sports ministry said in a statement.

“We (will) tell our story of an unparallelled unity in diversity, reconstruction and development.

“Sport continues to unite South Africans, healing past wounds and creating a better future for all.”

The Games are earmarked to start on July 18, the late Nelson Mandela’s birthday.

Hundreds of jubilant locals gathered on a sports field in Durban to hear the announcement made from New Zealand, with prominent sporting stars expressing support for the event.

Retired national cricket captain Shaun Pollock said Durban would be an excellent host.

“The Games will showcase what we can produce as a city in terms of sporting excellence… it’s exciting times,” he said.

Canadian city Edmonton withdrew from the 2022 race, citing oil price-related financial concerns, leaving the South African port as the only bidder.

Durban played a key role in South Africa’s rugby and football World Cups, as well as in the 2003 cricket World Cup.

According to authorities, a budget of 6.4 billion rand has been set aside for the Games, in a country battling high unemployment and poor growth.

Officials say only an athletes village and a shooting range need to be built, and an athletics track installed at the main Moses Mabhida Stadium, which was erected for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Commonwealth Games – Kenyan cyclists dream big

From delivering milk in the hills of Kenya to racing through the streets of Glasgow at the Commonwealth Games, it is fair to say life is about to change drastically for John Njoroge, Suleiman Kangangi and Paul Ajiko.

Between them the three Kenyans will compete in the 2014 Commonwealth Games time trial on Thursday July 31, and in the road race on Sunday August 3. They will come up against competitors from strong cycling nations, such as England, Australia and South Africa, but they are not without hope or a chance.

Njoroge, Kangangi and Ajiko are from Iten, a small town on the Kenya-Uganda border that is notable for being home to many of the world’s finest long-distance runners. The hope of this trio is that it be known for its cyclists, too, with the Commonwealth Games offering the perfect showcase opportunity.

Members of the Kenyan Riders club, from left Samwel Ekiru, Suleiman Kangangi and Paul Ajiko. ‘The world has to watch out,’ says their coach Simon Blake. (Pic: Nicolas Leong)
Members of the Kenyan Riders club, from left Samwel Ekiru, Suleiman Kangangi and Paul Ajiko. ‘The world has to watch out,’ says their coach Simon Blake. (Pic: Nicolas Leong)

Kenya is where Froome was raised and first put foot to pedal on his way to becoming the 2013 Tour de France winner and one of the finest cyclists in the world, yet traditionally the country has lacked a base of top-level riders. However, success has been building. A Kenyan team finished 13th out of 9 000 teams in the 2011 l’Étape du Tour, an event that allows amateur cyclists to race the Tour de France route, and fourth in the following year’s Tour of Rwanda, Africa’s biggest cycling event.

Central to the story has been Nick Leong, a former Singaporean photographer who moved to Iten and formed the 11-strong Kenyan Riders, the country’s first professional cycling team. “Cycling is ready for a change,” Leong says. “It is important to have diversity in the sport and an African team definitely helps open it to an even larger demographic.”

Given that Iten has an altitude of 2.4km, it is no major surprise that the Kenyan Riders’ speciality is climbing. Njoroge, who at 1.65m is the shortest of the trio, works as a milk deliveryman in the highlands of Naivasha, transporting up to 60kg a day on his bicycle over long, gruelling distances. “I was working very hard,” he says. “My body was used to the heavy weight and I liked to ride at high speeds. When I heard about the Kenyan Riders team, I trained as much as I could to ensure that I could join. Cycling for Kenya is my dream.”

In 2012 Njoroge finished fourth in the Haute Route, a seven-day race in the French Alps which covers over 19.8 vertical kilometers, and is arguably the toughest cycling competition in the world. During that year’s Tour of Rwanda he also finished third, only two minutes behind South African professionals.

Like Njoroge, Kangangi has a milk-delivery background, yet this is a man who has always had a desire to improve his life; he taught himself to read, write and speak English after being taken out of school by his impoverished mother. Now Kangangi is determined to show the world his cycling abilities and, with it, the broader sporting capabilities of his home nation.

“I am proud to be cycling in Europe as a Kenyan and I want to show the world what Africans can do,” says Kangangi, who is co-captain of the Kenyan Riders, alongside Samwel Mangi. “The race course is seriously tough but I am determined to give everything. If we do a really good job, this can help us get more sponsorship and support.”

According to Kenyan Riders coach Simon Blake, this something that is essential if the sport is to grow across the country. “Bicycles are part of the Kenyan culture but so far they are used only as a utility tool,” he says. “There is no established racing scene in Kenya and racing there is at such a low level compared to where we want to be in the future. We have to go abroad for practice but unfortunately that costs heaps of money.”

In preparing for the Commonwealth Games the team have had to work without a mechanic. The riders, therefore, have had to largely look after themselves, which has included taking delivery of their time-trial bikes, which only arrived in Glasgow this week.

Yet Njoroge, Kangangi and Ajiko feel sure they can make an impact. “The world has to watch out,” Blake says. “In five to 10 years it will be Africans dominating the big tours.”