Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula. Picture: THE TIMES
Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula. Picture: THE TIMES

SOUTH Africa will bid for the 2024 Olympics, Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Monday as the Queen’s Baton arrived in South Africa as part of its pre-Commonwealth Games relay.

The country would also bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Mbalula told Times Media, saying the ultimate prize would be the Olympics.

At a press conference at OR Tambo International Airport, he said: "We don’t want to bid for Commonwealth, we want the Olympics. If the Commonwealth comes first, that’s fine. The biggest fish to catch is 2024 (Olympics)."

Mbalula said President Jacob Zuma had already indicated that South Africa was ready to host the Games.

"Sport plays a role in terms of infrastructure development."

There had been benefits from hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup, Mbalula said.

He later confirmed to Times Media that South Africa would bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games as well.

Gideon Sam, the president of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, and vice-president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, said the 2022 Games would be Africa’s turn, with the likely candidates to come from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

Countries have until next month to make an expression of interest in hosting the Commonwealth Games, and if more than one nation bids for it, it will be decided by vote.

The baton, containing a message from Queen Elizabeth II which will be revealed at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on July 23, arrived in SA for a four-day trip.

It will travel the Gauteng province before heading to St Helena en route to the Falkland Islands and South America.

Team South Africa has finished fifth at the past two editions of the Commonwealth Games, in Melbourne 2006 and Delhi 2010.

Sam said he wanted the team to improve its position to fourth on the medals table.