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South Africa considering bid for 2020 Games

By Jon Herskovitz

PRETORIA (Reuters) - South Africa is considering a bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics and will soon discuss the matter at cabinet, Sports and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Friday.

South Africa had been seen as a leading candidate after its successful hosting of the 2010 soccer World Cup, but the government said in May it was not considering a bid because it would divert too much money from state finances.

"From the ministry of sports, we are quite interested. So we will go back to cabinet in a week's time and re-present our case to fit in the information that was not there," Mbalula told Reuters.

"In this instance, Durban has put an important bid to us, which is convincing," he said.

The eastern coastal city of Durban, one of the cites for the World Cup, this month hosted a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) where several delegates said they would like to see the Games come to Africa for the first time.

IOC President Jacques Rogge prodded South Africa to bid.

"South Africa proved during the World Cup that they are ready for a major event. As a nation they are ready to host the Olympic Games," Rogge told delegates in Durban.

In its earlier decision not to bid, the government said it wanted to use the money that would have gone into a campaign and a possible hosting to bring services to the masses of poor.

The country spent about 40 billion rand ($6 billion) to host the World Cup, with economists saying the money was an effective stimulus, providing jobs and much needed infrastructure.

The tourism industry said the World Cup led to an increase in visitors to the country while government officials said it helped increase GDP growth by about 1 percent.

Helping South Africa is the fact that the country is in the same time zones as large parts of Europe. Events held locally in the evening can be seen in mid-afternoon times in North America, which would likely sit well with major TV broadcasters from the United States who are major sources of IOC revenue.

The IOC this month kicked off the bid process for the 2020 summer Games, with a winning city expected to be announced in two years' time in Buenos Aires.

Only Italian capital Rome, which beat out domestic competitor Venice, has officially been named so far, although bids from Japan and the Middle East are considered possible.

London is preparing to stage the 2012 Games while the 2016 summer Olympics have been awarded to Rio de Janeiro.

(Editing by Dave Thompson)