African bid urged

NAIROBI, Kenya – IOC president Jacques Rogge urged African nations Tuesday to bid for the 2016 Olympics.

Making his first trip to Africa since his election as IOC chief in 2001, Rogge said he hopes the games can go ‘as soon as possible’ to the continent for the first time.

A successful 2010 soccer World Cup in South Africa would strengthen the continent’s future Olympic chances, he said.

Cape Town, South Africa, finished third in the voting for the 2004 Olympics, which were held in Athens, Greece. The Egyptian capital, Cairo, was eliminated in the early stages of the campaign for 2008.

There were no African bids for the 2012 Olympics, which is being contested between Paris, New York, London, Madrid and Moscow. The International Olympic Committee will select the host city in July.

The bidding process for the 2016 games won’t begin until 2007, with the host city chosen in 2009.

An African city would stand a strong chance of winning if it meets key requirements, Rogge said. He cited good security, transportation and venues, as well as a compact layout, a minimum of 30,000 hotel rooms and a strong national team.

Hosting the games in Africa would help improve conditions in a continent that is struggling to combat poverty and a lack of key infrastructure, he said.

‘The games are more than just a sporting event, they are also the occasion for the city to upgrade itself,’ Rogge said. ‘Look at what happened in Athens. It is a transformed city, thanks to the games. They have a new airport, a new metro, a new tramway, a new telecommunications center, new roads.’

During his four-day visit to Kenya, Rogge is attending the 50th anniversary celebrations of the national Olympic committee and meeting sports, government and U.N. aid officials.