Parliament lauds Team SA

2012-08-28 20:04

Cape Town - Parliament paid tribute on Tuesday to South Africa's athletes who participated in the recent 2012 London Olympic Games.

Speaking during a special debate in a joint sitting of Parliament's two houses, Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula acknowledged the achievements of not only the Olympic team, but also those of the country's other sportsmen and women.

These included the golfers, cricketers, rugby and soccer players, and many other codes.

Parliament was celebrating "not mediocrity, but excellence", he said.

This year marked a year in South Africa's history where the country and people had made tremendous strides in sport.

"This year our country and athletes have done exceptionally well in their codes across the board. Our athletes and all our national teams have against all odds made our people proud and our country a winning nation," Mbalula said.

Deputy agriculture minister Pieter Mulder congratulated the team on behalf of the Freedom Front Plus.

The United States selected its team out of 300 million people, while China selected the best athletes from 1 300 million people - as opposed to South Africa's 50 million.

"When for example the total number of medals of China per capita of the population is calculated, China came 74th and not second.

"From more than 200 countries, South Africa came 24th and we were the best team in Africa. It is a special achievement and we would like to congratulate you," he said.

Mkhuleko Hlengwa of the Inkatha Freedom Party said the country was proud of the six medals - three gold, two silver, and one bronze - won by the athletes.

"Indeed, we view their achievements as our victory. We are inspired by their determination to serve their country.

"Team South Africa proved once again that sport has the power of unifying, even in diversity. It has the power to cause people to put aside their differences and to put the country first," Hlengwa said.

The Congress of the People's Graham MacKenzie said as a nation of 50 million 'sport-centric' people, South Africa needed to be regarded at the Olympics as a top 10 country.

To achieve this, various structural changes in thinking and planning needed to come into effect.

"The fact that our athletes competed this well on a meagre budget of R100m is nothing short of amazing, when one considers how other nations view the importance of sport to their national psyche," he said.

Wendy Makgate of the African National Congress said the whole Olympic team stood up and said "we are ready, we are available to represent our country against other nations in the 2012 London Olympics".

That spirit of patriotism alone should be celebrated.

"Our faces beamed with pride when... Cameron van der Burgh won a gold medal in the men's 100m breaststroke... a gold medal from Chad le Clos in the men's 200m butterfly... a third gold medal was won by the rowing team of Matthew Brittain, Sizwe Ndlovu, John Smith, and James Thompson in the men's lightweight coxless four.

"A silver medal, by Chad le Clos again, in the men's 100m butterfly... our first bronze medal... won by Bridgitte Hartley in the women's K1-500 metre (canoeing). Our last medal, was a silver medal in women's 800m athletics won by Caster Semenya on the 11th of August 2012," Makgate said.