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Durban awarded 2022 Commonwealth Games, becomes 1st African host

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP)_ Durban in South Africa will host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, becoming the first African city to be awarded the four-yearly multi-sports event.

The 71 nations and territories of the Commonwealth Games Federation made the decision unanimously Wednesday after receiving Durban’s final candidate city briefing at the general assembly in Auckland. Durban was the only candidate left when Edmonton, Canada withdrew its bid in February, citing costs.

The general assembly also voted to increase the number of compulsory sports at the games from 10 to 16.

Scotland’s Louise Martin was elected the first female president of the federation, deposing incumbent Prince Tunku Imran of Malaysia who held the role for four years.

Durban’s final pitch to Federation members included contributions from South Africa’s minister for sport Fikile Mbalula and Durban mayor James Nxumalo. The announcement was broadcast live in South Africa.

Members of the South African delegation said while Durban was the lone candidate, it was not a certainty to be awarded the games. It still had to demonstrate it had the ability and the infrastructure to host a games which would be financially viable.

South Africa’s record in hosting the football World Cup in 2010 and the Rugby World Cup in 1995 demonstrated its organizational ability but it has not yet hosted a multi-sports event of the scale of the Commonwealth Games.

The games are scheduled to open July 18, 2022 _ marking the birthday of South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela who died in 2013.

Principals of the Durban bid committee have said existing infrastructure will be used to minimize costs and the games, scheduled to take place over 12 days, will make a profit. An athletics track will be installed at the existing Moses Mabhida Stadium and venues are already in place to host cycling, swimming and indoor events. An athlete’s village will be constructed.

Meanwhile, Martin who is the federation’s honorary secretry and was vice-chair of the Glasgow 2014 organizing committee, edged Prince Imran in a tight vote for the presidency.

Prince Imran was thought to have a strong hold on the position until Martin released a manifesto in which she pledged to secure new sources of funding to boost spending in member nations.

“(I see) a way ahead that maximizes sponsorship, grows our profit and supports each and every country and territory to success through greater investment,” Martin said.

Prince Imran highlighted his record over four years in office and appealed for a chance to see through his plans.

“I hope that you will give me the opportunity to really finish what I basically started,” he said. “I felt we finally got to the starting blocks. Please let me finish this race and don’t disqualify me from the starting blocks.”

Scotland and Canada have offered to host the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games after the withdrawal of the appointed host, St. Lucia.

The 2016 general assembly will be held in Edmonton.

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