Durban - The trend of taking major sports events to uncharted territories could continue with Africa's first Olympics in 2020.
IOC President Jacques Rogge said on Monday a new region would be "favoured" in a close race for hosting rights. Rogge also praised 2010 World Cup football host South Africa at a two-day conference in Durban - the South African city which is now expected to bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The Olympics have been awarded to every continent except Africa.
South Africa was "capable of organising a very good Games," Rogge said at the World Conference on Sport, Education and Culture in the east coast city. "You've proven many times you can stage big events.
"We would only award the Games on the quality of the bid, not on the location. If, however, there were two good bids, then the region that has not had them would be favoured."
Russia and Qatar were given the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments by world football body FIFA on December 2.
Both countries are first-time hosts, and Qatar's tournament will be the first World Cup in the Middle East - 12 years after the first in Africa.
The International Olympic Committee chief's positive comments were an added boost to South Africa's Olympic hopes following its own staging of the world's biggest football tournament in June and July this year.
The 2010 World Cup was a huge success and set a new benchmark for future tournaments, FIFA said in its post-event appraisal in September. Rogge also attended the final stages of the tournament.
It was the latest on a list of major South Africa-based sports events, with the Olympics - the world's biggest sports event - a possible addition.
"I believe that the organisation of the cricket world championship (World Cup, in 2003), the Rugby World Cup (in 1995) and now the FIFA World Cup, with great success in the three events, has definitely put South Africa in the first league of nations that organize major sport events," Rogge told The Associated Press on Monday. "So, yes, Africa is on the surge and we are very glad about that."
South Africa announced soon after the World Cup that it would organise a bid for the 2020 Olympics, but it has not decided which city will represent it.
Durban is favoured to get the formal endorsement of South Africa's Olympic committee and the crucial government backing ahead of Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Cape Town lost to Athens in the contest to host the 2004 Olympics.
A warm resort on the shores of the Indian Ocean, and the country's third largest city, Durban is then expected to announce its, and South Africa's, candidature at the 123rd IOC Session. It hosts the session in July 2011.
"You have hit some high notes," Rogge told organisers on Monday at Durban's International Conference Centre - where next year's IOC meeting will also take place. "It bodes well for next July."
Then, the city and the country has a chance to impress Olympic officials who will gather to decide the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics at Africa's first IOC Session in 72 years.
"I have to thank the IOC for showering compliments on us here in Durban and we intend delivering an event next year of the highest quality," said South Africa's IOC executive member Sam Ramsamy. "But to talk about 2020 is premature. There are discussions with government.
"I feel certain the Olympics will come to Africa, but when is another issue altogether. (But) The president of the IOC has wanted the Olympics to be spread as universally as possible."
The Summer Olympics were hosted by Beijing, China in 2008. They will be held in Brazil by Rio de Janeiro in 2016 - the first Games in South America.
At Sunday's opening ceremony at the conference, Rogge said there was a "special bond" between the IOC and South African sport. South Africa's sports minister, Durban's mayor, Ramsamy and South Africa's Olympic committee president, Gideon Sam, all attended the ceremony.
The IOC's decision on the host for the 2020 Olympics will be made in 2013, but preliminary bids must be submitted next year.
Rome has formally announced it will bid for the 2020 Games, and Toronto, Istanbul, Lisbon, Dubai and Busan, South Korea, among others, could also compete.