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South Africa to bid for 2024 Games: sports minister

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa is to bid for the 2024 Olympics and also wants to host the Commonwealth Games two years before that, the country's sports minister Fikile Mbabula said.

"The biggest fish to catch is the 2024 Olympics," the Business Day newspaper on Tuesday quoted Mbabula as saying.

"Sport plays a role in terms of infrastructure development," he told reporters, adding South Africa's president Jacob Zuma had already indicated the country was ready to host the Games.

It is a major shift in policy for South Africa who last year said the cost to host an Olympics would be too high.

Cape Town lost out in the bid for the 2004 Olympics in the first attempt by an African city to host the Games.

Durban was touted to bid for 2020 but plans were put on ice after the government said it would be too expensive but since last year there have been several signals of a change of heart.

Bidding for the 2024 Olympics will begin in 2015 and the International Olympic Committee will decide the winner in 2017. The next Olympics in 2016 will be held in Rio de Janeiro while Tokyo will host the 2020 Games.

An African city is in line to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games with expressions of intent due by next month.

The next Commonwealth Games are in Glasgow later this year and on Australia's Gold Coast in 2018.

South Africa hosted the soccer World Cup four years ago, spending more than $3 billion in infra-structure costs.

(Reporting by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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