- Kenya will bid to become the first African nation to host the 2024Olympic Games
- Prime Minister: The region's trillion-dollar economy was set to boom in next decade
- Would bring a psychological boost as well as "enormous benefits" of investment
Kenya will bid to become the first African nation to host the Olympic Games in 2024, Raila Odinga, the country's prime minister, has said.
Speaking to the FT in London, Mr Odinga said sub-Saharan Africa's time to host the games had come. The region's trillion-dollar economy was set to boom over the next decade, he said, and for Kenya, east Africa's leading economy, hosting the Olympics would bring a psychological boost as well as "enormous benefits" in terms of investment in infrastructure.
"Kenya had the confidence as far back as 1968 to consider bidding for the Olympics," he said. But in 2004, when the idea was raised again, local newspapers scoffed, illustrating the drift Kenya experienced after the heady days of independence in 1963.
"That is the spirit we need to recapture. We need to bring back that confidence and say we can do it. It is necessary to take a look back at where are coming from and where we want to go, because we have been drifting for too long," he said, alluding to the decades of stagnation and misrule under the autocratic Daniel Arap Moi.
Mr Odinga, who shares power in a coalition government forged after violence surrounding the 2007 presidential elections, leads opinion polls again in what promises to be an unusual poll next March. Two rival candidates, including the son of former independence leader Jomo Kenyatta, remain in the race despite having been charged by the International Criminal Court with crimes against humanity.
A Kenyan bid would be welcomed by the International Olympic Committee but early indications are it would face stiff competition. The IOC is expecting a strong pitch from US cities, including New York and San Francisco, now that a long-standing disagreement over the division of television and sponsorship revenues has been settled.
Durban is also a possible 2024 bidder after Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, said he would love to have seen an African bid for the 2020 games.
Other countries thinking about bidding for 2024 include Argentina, Morocco and Egypt. A new bid from Doha, ejected from the 2020 race over scheduling concerns, is expected.
The IOC said it was not aware of Kenya's interest but added: "The [IOC] president has made it absolutely clear that we would love a good bid from Africa."
The shortlist for the 2020 race is made up of Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid.
With seven medals already in the bag at the London Olympics, including one gold for Ezekiel Kemboi in the 3,000m steeplechase and another for David Lekuta Rudisha in the 800m in a world record time, and with hopes high for Sunday's marathon, Kenya is poised to rival South Africa as the most successful African country at the London games.
Asked how he would sell the project, likely to cost as much as $15bn, to Kenyans, Mr Odinga pointed to the renaissance that cities such as Tokyo, Seoul, Atlanta and Mexico City had received when they hosted the games.