President’s Voice – Gideon Sam
June 1st, 2012 | Published in President's Voice
For me the great feel-good story this week is ace BMX racer Sifiso Nhlapo’s qualification for the London Olympics.
I must be honest that there were times when I thought we had lost him to the team but he has a heart as big as big can be. That never-say-die attitude of Sifiso was what pulled him through. As he embarks on his final preparations we will pray that misfortune does not ride with him.
We are on the last stretch now and preparing to make the first announcement of athletes who have qualified for the Games. The official announcement will be the stamp of approval for the inclusion of the athletes in the team.
This will be the first announcement for the athletes who have qualified followed by a second announcement a while later. There will also be an official announcement of the Paralympic team members later.
With these announcements we will be concluding a process that started way back in 2009 when we launched the Operation Excellence (OPEX) programne. Many hours of hard work have been put in by many people and it is now up to the athletes to make both themselves and the country proud.
I also promised to give you a second instalment of the Sport Accord gathering in Quebec City, Canada. One simply cannot say enough about the value of the networking at these gatherings.
Just to cite an example of this. We met with the Presidents of several international federations who we believe can help us develop their sporting codes in our country. We specifically focused on judo; weightlifting; karate; wrestling and boxing.
These sports will get a special focus in the next quadrennial because we believe they have great potential. With the support of the International Federations we can develop these sports in all nine provinces in our country.
In the words of Chairman, Hein Verbruggen, the sports movement around the globe has benefited greatly from the platform created by Sport Accord, to debate issues affecting the sport industry. Indeed, 1500-1800 delegates spent a week together debating where sport is currently and where it is going. A plenary panel discussion on “Show me the Money – The Changing Landscape of Sports Sponsorship”, clearly showed the way forward for sport bodies. There will be no free lunches and sport must have a convincing story to tell sponsors.
This topic coupled with a round table on: “Survival of the Fittest – Adapt your Sport to a Changing World,” indicates that some sport may not be around in the future because the fight to survive as a sport is becoming more taxing. Leaders in federations must be smart and above all; think out of the box.
Our follow up strategy will be to work closer with one or two countries that we believe can be beneficial to our own discussions on a road map for sport in our country. We are working on a model for an academy system for South Africa and we are taking lessons from some of the countries that we encounter at Sport Accord. In a sense we are learning but then there are those times when you think that we have the capacities to do some of the things and in fact, we can be world leaders in some other aspects of the debates.
There are great minds in this country who are well respected internationally. So it was that I arrived in Budapest to participate in a conference there and they kept mentioning Dr Louis Holtzhausen from Free State University. On my return I called him about this and I learned about his interest and today he is part of the support team working with the athletes preparing for London.
He is supporting our boxers in the Free State Academy and he has been with our Zone Six team. There are many such people in our country who can really take sport to another level.
I’m sure this will still happen in our life time and when that happens, South African sport will be strong and respected worldwide.
Finally good luck to all those men and women who are chosen to represent Team South Africa at the team announcement at Olympic House. You have all earned the right to wear our national colours… now go on to do us proud on the biggest global stage of them all.