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PRESIDENT Nelson Mandela may receive acclaim and affection throughout the world, but in Lausanne last week African International Olympic Committee (IOC) members were hardly impressed by him at all.
The South Africans were shocked when, judging from the 16 votes in the first round and the 20 in the second, it was clear that most African delegates had not even supported Cape Towns bid.
Several of the 21 African IOC members said, however, they would support a Cape Town bid in 2008 provided it employed new personnel and adopted a different approach. They said the attempt to use Mandela as a trump card when the vote was taken for the host city of 2004 last week failed miserably.
The support and the call for radical change came after most of the African IOC members and a number of top African Olympic and sports officials met behind closed doors last Saturday at the plush Palace Hotel in Lausanne. They had lingered, at IOC expense, to discuss how the continents Olympic movements should be run.
Uppermost in members minds was how to make a credible case for an African venue next time round.
Almost none of them wanted to be identified in interviews with the Mail & Guardian, fearing they would antagonise African cities contemplating bidding for the 2008 Games.
Several strongly put forward the view that only South Africa would be seen by the IOC as having sufficient organisation and a suitable infrastructure to stage the worlds most complex sporting event.
There was equal conviction that the South African city with by far the best chance would be Cape Town again, despite its disappointing showing.
Personally, I would say it should be Cape Town, said Henry Adefope, a retired Nigerian major-general. He said the city had impressed IOC members who had visited it, and it had the asset of natural beauty not available to Johannesburg.
Cape Town was not disgraced. Next time round it will learn from its mistakes, he said.
And mistakes there certainly were. Adefope had been involved in South Africa's return to the Olympics ever since he was a key part of the small delegation that met Mandela and African National Congress leaders in a Nelspruit airport tea-room in 1990. He was also a member of the evaluation group that reported on the quality of each city's bid proposals with on-site inspections.
His last visit to South Africa came in July, when top IOC members presented Mandela with a Fair Play award. It was at this meeting that African members say they shocked Mandela.
They told him Cape Town was failing in several key areas. It had the wrong bid leadership; the National Olympic Committee of South Africa and Sam Ramsamy had played far too ineffectual and backseat a role; campaigning directly with IOC members had been weak; and the government needed to be much more directly involved. The next day Deputy President Thabo Mbeki began changing things round, but it was a losing battle.
Mandela, the worlds icon and, in many ways, symbolising an Olympic success story, received polite applause in Lausanne when he finished his speech on behalf of Cape Town. But a middle-aged Greek lawyer, Gianna Angelopoulis, hardly known to any IOC member a few years ago, sat down from her closing remarks to an unprecedented standing ovation.
Why was Mandela's intervention so unsuccessful?
Mandela, perhaps the greatest figure of the 20th century, is a personality who wins over people wherever he goes, Adefope pointed out. But the South Africans squandered their trump card.
On Saturday a European member said to me: I know when he talks from the heart he carries people with him. Why, oh why, did he talk from a written speech? It was as if he held me personally responsible for this failure.
Failure to utilise Mandela's personal charm was the culmination of South African blunders that may well have made the difference between defeat and victory, according to African IOC members.
Adefope insists that next time the government must be involved, right down to local level.
Secondly, the bid must give a wider impression to blacks that they will benefit. The bid needs restructuring. People told visiting IOC members that the Games are being run by the whites and for the whites ... which was not correct. Next time, the bid needs to build much more confidence and interest in the rainbow nation.
IOC members said they had been unimpressed by the bids leadership, especially Ball, who came across as dour, aloof and unsmiling. A gregarious, hugging (or at least back-slapping) figure would have made better inroads especially if he were black.
Cape Town did not reach out enough internally or externally, noted Adefope.
South Africa's lone IOC member, Ramsamy, was seen to be too distant from the bid. He should have been based in Cape Town long before Mandela ordered him to go there in July, said one African member.
Possibly there was an impression of over- confidence given which harmed Cape Town, was Adefope's on-the-record comment. The other four cities did much more.
We were getting literature on a regular basis. Faxes arrived each week to IOC members. Other cities sent top-class updates on video and attractively in print. You have to do all that can be done, and it was not done by Cape Town.
Personal visits to and from all IOC members are also essential, though expensive, he noted.
With this catalogue of Capetonian calamity, why are he and many non-African IOC members more confident of success next time?
Members admitted that to benefit the world image of the Olympics, they would be seeking to reach out into uncharted territory next time, meaning either China, Africa or South America. And in the case of South Africa, a successful transition to a new leadership after Mandela would help convince members and sponsors of the country's political stability.
Mbeki has made a good impression, concluded Adefope. Cape Town can win without Mandela next time ... if the lessons are learnt.