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R400m boost for SA Olympians

2009-02-18 12:06
Gideon Sam (Gallo Images)

Johannesburg - South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam Wednesday confirmed a R400 million National Lottery grant for South Africa's 2012 Olympic Games challenge.

Sam, in announcing details of the Road to London campaign, said funding was essential to South Africa's success but added that funding alone would not improve the country's Olympic Games record.

"There has to be structure. There has to be the right talent identification and there has to be a plan over the next four years that gives the impetus to continued planning for 2016. There also has to be unemotional identification of sporting codes that have delivered medals or alternatively have the athletes with the potential to deliver on any emotional and financial investment," he said.

Sam, since taking office in December, has been actively engaging with representatives from all the major tertiary institutions to establish the effectiveness of the infrastructure in South Africa. He has also been consulting various people, who he believes can influence the ideal of transforming South Africa's medal haul in London in 2012.

"It has been a hectic and rewarding last six weeks and from what I have experienced we certainly have the infra-structure and the individuals capable of improving on the one silver medal achieved in Beijing. But talk is cheap and we have to utilize everything at our disposal in the next four years to turn the talk into medals and to get back our credibility as an Olympic sporting nation," said Sam.

"Money has been made available and we will continue to seek the investment of Corporate South Africa for what is the biggest sporting stage of them all, but to do this there has to be a blueprint of where the money is going and what the end goal is. I have said that it is possible to get 12 by 12, but again our talent identification has to be accurate and our focus has to be on those Olympic sports that can produce medals.

"We cannot continue to select individuals or teams with no realistic chance of a medal, as has happened in the past. Supporters want winners and that is what we have to produce in the next four years."

Sam said the R400 million Lottery grant was based on a R100 million a year payment, with the focus sports the primary beneficiaries.

"I want to stress the necessity for coordination in the field of finance and human resource. Let us use the resources optimally within the country. We want the best brains here and abroad to help us create the environment for our athletes to be prepared properly. The tertiary institutions will play a crucial role but they can't be islands. They must come into a programme that will be geared towards giving the athletes only the best.

"Our communication towards the athletes, public and media has to improve and the onus is on us to ensure enthusiasm over the next four years, just as we see in our cricket, rugby and soccer World Cup campaigns.

"This is about providing the best for our best and only the best will come into reckoning for Operation Excellence. Accountability, passion and discipline will be non-negotiable. There will be no free rides to the Olympics, period."

Sam, who has attended all of the Olympics since South Africa's 1992 introduction, reiterated the need to work with and not against the Department of Sport and Recreation.

"There were grey areas in terms of responsibility that I wanted erased and we've done this over the last few weeks. I have been encouraged by the Sports Minister's attitude. He and those in his department want winners and they want to assist in producing medal-winning South Africans.

"We all have to live the next four years if there is going to be success and we can't afford to be working against each other, even if it may be unintentional. Communication and transparency will be critical to achieve this kind of unity and one of SASCOC's biggest challengers, as the custodian of sport in this country, is to ensure the Federations embrace the road we will have to travel to get reward in London.

"My position is clear, in that there will be no handouts and everyone who gets selected will have earned the right to be there."

The initial focus sports identified are athletics, swimming, wrestling, judo, cycling, canoeing, shooting, weightlifting, boxing and rowing.

"Historically, our medals have come from here, but 19 medals in five Olympics is not impressive and that is what has to change. But it can't be achieved if there is no viable sports structure, platform to grow, athlete identification and financial resource," Sam concluded

Read more on:    gideon sam

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