Sam upbeat ahead of Olympics
Gideon Sam (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) president Gideon Sam says the excitement missing from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games was present ahead of this year's multi-sport showpiece.
Sam was speaking at the launch of South Africa's latest Olympic and Paralympic Games kit at Turbine Hall, in Johannesburg, on Wednesday evening.
"I am very excited. There is no doubt about it," said Sam.
"If you think back to Beijing, there was something that was just missing with how we were doing things.
"I can't blame anybody, it's just at that point in time our resources were not as they are now.
"We really could not excite the South African public."
Judging by the athletes' reaction on the night, they will proudly fly the South African flag in their new clothes.
This is in stark contrast to the wardrobe malfunction the team experienced four years ago, when athletes were outraged at the sub-standard kit and clothing received.
Some of the complaints were that the vests unravelled even before the start of the Games, and that some of the clothes did not fit the athletes and had to be adjusted by a seamstress.
"This time around we really said to ourselves, 'put the athletes in the centre, let it be about them, and let the people see what it is we are doing'," Sam said.
There were questions asked on whether SASCOC could not have a local supplier for the kit rather than Erke, the Chinese manufacturers.
Sam defended the transaction, which is worth approximately R25 million, and which will be in place until the next Games in 2016.
"The most important thing that people must understand is that we had to go far and wide in searching for someone to get on board with us," Sam said.
"Remember, when we started it was around 2009 and 2010, and everybody was into the World Cup.
"People said 'well, our finances are already committed', and we couldn't wait because we would have run out of time.
"It was important for us to throw the net a little bit wider, and that is exactly what we did."
While SASCOC has clinched a series of sponsors in recent months, Sam said it still needed extra finances for athlete incentives.
"You should not be surprised if you see me out there still with my cap at the robots, because the one area we still need to overcome is the incentives for the athletes," he said.
"If you look at all the teams that have gone out, our rugby team, our cricket team and Bafana Bafana, they had them.
"I believe our athletes also deserve to have those incentives."