PIETERMARITZBURG is set to become the canoeing capital of the world.
The city hall was abuzz with excitement yesterday at the news that the 2017 Canoe Marathon World Championships will be hosted at Camps Drift on the Msunduzi River — home base of the famous Dusi Canoe Marathon.
The Natal Canoe Club, with the support of the South African canoeing fraternity, beat international competition to win the bid. The announcement was made by the International Canoe Federation (ICF) board of directors after a meeting in Lima, Peru, over the weekend.
A buoyant councillor Bill Lambert arrived at yesterday’s executive committee (Exco) meeting bursting with the news. He had just had breakfast with Dusi Marathon chairperson Cameron Mackenzie.
Lambert told his fellow councillors, who were soon equally in awe, how all of this was going to enhance Pietermaritzburg’s status as a canoe city, starting from next year when there will be four provincial canoeing championships held in the city.
This will be followed by:
• In 2014, four South African Championship races.
• By 2015, the All-African marathon championship will be held on the Msunduzi River.
• In 2016, there will be a World Cup Canoeing competition.
• All of this will culminate in 2017 with the World Marathon Championships.
“I’m over the moon,” said Lambert, “this is all so good for the city. It is good for business, the economy and exposure for the city,” he said.
Deputy Mayor Thobani Zuma, who was chairing yesterday’s meeting in the absence of Mayor Chris Ndlela, said that canoeing events would dramatically change the city for the better.
“Not only are we the capital of KwaZulu-Natal, this confirms our growing status as a sporting capital,” Zuma said.
He concurred with Lambert and marketing manager Brian Zuma that the city was the home of such ultra sporting events as the Comrades and the Dusi; the world cycling championships and the Midmar Mile.
“Msunduzi is a capital city; we must be confident and proud of this and continue to attract more events, whether they be sport or entertainment.”
Brett Austen-Smith, general manager for the Dusi Canoe Marathon, said that of major importance in securing the championships was his organisation’s drive to clean up the river.
Austen-Smith said there was ongoing work on the water quality in Camps Drift and that they were working in close collaboration with Msunduzi and the Umgungundlovu District Municipality to make sure these were addressed well in time for these major events.