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