Olympics: SA ‘could pull it off’

2016-08-30 20:24
Ryk Neethling (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – South Africa would offer healthy potential for a maiden Olympics on the continent … especially if the International Olympic Committee came around to the concept of a countrywide rather than necessarily city-specific Games.

So says Ryk Neethling, one of South Africa’s iconic post-isolation gold-medallists, who recently returned from a visit to the Rio Olympics.

In a wide-ranging interview with Sport24 – see earlier extracts on the website -- the former swimming ace said going to Brazil only reminded him that our country “could definitely pull off the Games” if invited to do so.

“Look, it’s going to have to be in Africa at some point; you can’t have 120 years of modern Olympics and leave this continent out.

“South Africa is quite small in some respects, and you could possibly split it between cities – that is a (policy-change) scenario that could play out in the next couple of years.

“The demands the IOC makes … it’s a bit like Fifa. Some of those would have to be relaxed a little and I am hearing that they are potentially more open to that happening.

“Of course we’d really have to want it. If you take just one event like slalom canoeing, it is a very expensive thing to build and it’s not like people would continually use it. You have to think about such aspects.”

There has been much internal debate in the past about which of Cape Town, Johannesburg or Durban, with their contrasting advantages and drawbacks, could most feasibly stage an Olympics.

“From a long-term perspective (if it still came down to a single-city policy) Cape Town would benefit the best, I believe,” said Neethling.

“There’s more to offer here, although Durban has broader facilities and will have staged a Commonwealth Games, with all its various needs, before any possible SA Olympics.

“Much is always made about crime in our country, but in Rio … not just me, but people I know … kind of felt hassled or experienced (petty crime) in the streets, much more so than is seen back home.”

He had some mixed observations over the inaugural Olympics rugby Sevens in Rio.

“I think Brazil of all the countries is not ideal for anything rugby-based. Also, where the stadium was … it was really at the distant, back end of the city. Very far: hour-and-a-half bus from the Olympic Park or Copacabana, where a lot of people stayed.

“It really was a mission to get there; it was a bit like doing the drive from Cape Town to Worcester.

“But as for the actual competition, teams put in everything; it was a great event.

“Obviously with the growth happening in Japanese rugby, and with their team making the Rio semis, Tokyo 2020 will feel much bigger, especially from a crowds point of view.

“It was nice from a South African point of view to see someone like Bryan Habana, even though he didn’t make (the cut) in the end, show such desire and passion to be involved.

“Francois Hougaard giving up his medal … that’s one of those touching, feel-good Olympic stories, in my view.”

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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