City to splurge on celebs

The City is planning to spend more than R2 million on international celebrities invited to grace the much-anticipated opening of the Msunduzi Athletics Track later this month.

The track was initially expected to open in February but due to delays will now host the African Athletics League (AAL) for its launch on August 25. This competition will be the first of its kind on the African continent.

According to a report tabled at a special council meeting last week, the event could end up costing the municipality R3,9 million. On top of the R2 million in appearance fees, the City plans to spend R700 000 on plane tickets and R210 000 on accommodation for the international stars.

Invited guests include American track and field athletes Inika McPherson, Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin.

The AAL management has indicated that council also needs to contribute 30% of the event budget, which is R1,2 million, to host such an event.

General manager for community services Boniwe Zulu said the municipality will be seeking some of the funding required from the Department of Sport and Recreation, Department of Arts and Culture as well as the office of Premier Willies Mchunu.

The ANC councillors indicated that they are in support of the staging of the competition as it will put Pietermaritzburg on the world stage. They said it will also drum up hype for the Mandela Marathon, which will be held on August 26.

But councillors from the IFP, DA and ACDP recorded their objections saying council is going against its own cost containment strategy.

They said too much money is budgeted for celebrity athletes.

They proposed that the organising team should instead look into inviting South African record holders Wayde van Niekerk and Caster Semenya.

Zulu said both have been invited but they have not indicated if they will be coming.

DA’s Shawn Adkins said he also did not understand why they had to invite someone like Gatlin, who has previously been embroiled in several doping scandals.

“This council doesn’t have money. They don’t have money to fix the fire engines, they don’t have money to employ firemen ... because of finance,” said the DA’s Glenn McArthur.

ANC councillor Siphamandla Khumalo said the athletics track is a revenue enhancement entity because it will generate an income once it is opened.

“The report states clearly that departments will be approached to request funding so that we can mitigate the amount that we will be paying,” he said.

DA veteran councillor Bill Lambert said he supported the improvement of sporting facilities in the city but was also concerned about the money budgeted for the international stars.

KZN Athletics will host a trial event on August 18 to sort out any teething problems ahead of the AAL competition.