Mbalula: Make SA proud!
London - Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula says the country is completely behind the South African Olympic team ahead of the official start of the 2012 London Olympic Games on Friday.
Mbalula was speaking at the SA High Commission's welcoming of the team to the English capital, while adding that the country would not back out of its goal of winning 12 medals.
"I say to the President (Jacob Zuma), we stick to our guns, we know our preparations - forward ever, backwards never," Mbalula said.
"We are here to make South Africa proud."
Mbalula addressed some of the athletes who will be participating at the 30th Summer Olympiad at South African House, which is situated at one of London's greatest landmarks, Trafalgar Square.
While the Games will officially be declared open at the opening ceremony in Stratford on Friday, the South African women's soccer team got the country's campaign off to a disappointing start.
Banyana Banyana lost their opening match group match 4-1 to Sweden, the fourth ranked team in the world, in Coventry on Wednesday.
Mbalula said the team should remain proud of their achievement of reaching the Games.
"I said to those girls, 'by being here you already made us proud, you are the first South African team that qualified for the Olympics'," Mbalula said.
He said the South African cricket team and golfer Ernie Els laid the foundation for Team SA with their respective achievements last weekend.
The Proteas beat the English by a resounding innings and 12 runs in the first Test with Hashim Amla scoring a record-breaking 311 not out - the highest Test score by a South African.
Els, meanwhile, won the British Open over the weekend.
"There is no better place to beat the English then on their own terrain, and our cricket team led from the front," he said.
While most of the team was at the Olympic village or in training, South African actors Sharlo Copley and Tanit Phoenix requested to make an appearance at SA House.
Copley, an acclaimed international actor, who made his breakthrough in the movie 'District 9', said he wanted to wish the team well ahead of the Games.
"I am shooting a film in London called Maleficent with Angelina Jolie and it was just a coincidence that I had to be here at the same time," said Copley.
"I just came to show my support for the South African athletes and wish them well.
"I would say to them just enjoy it and you get this kind of opportunity once in a lifetime maybe twice if you are very lucky."
Copley said he used to be a decent middle-distance runner but turned out to be a much better actor, instead.
In her message to the team, Phoenix, who acted in the South African hit-movie 'Spud', said it was already an achievement for the athletes to be able to compete at this level.
Phoenix also dated fourth time Olympian Roland Schoeman, who will hope to add another medal to the three medals he won at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.
Archer, Karen Hultzer, will make her debut at the Games in the individual ranking rounds of the women's archery on Saturday.