Whose farewell party was it anyway?

Just prior to leaving for the Paralympic games in Beijing, SASCOC threw a farewell bash at the Birchwood Hotel which I thought was for the Paralympic Team.

A host of Cabinet Ministers and Deputies arrived in a strong show of support, all echoing SASCOC President Moss Mashishi’s cry for a “bucketful of medals” after the perceived failure of the Olympic Team. Amongst the politicians were Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuke and the Minister in the President’s Office, Essop Pahad, who both pledged further support for the disabled community, amongst other niceties, in their patronising speeches.
Well well! We got back from Beijing and they, and a host of others, are no longer which makes me wonder; whose farewell was it after all?

The accolades for the team have been well documented; Beijing is history and London is now clearly on the radar with the world wondering as to how they will compete with the splendour and organisation of Beijing? My advice is “don’t even try!” The Poms have always been an organised lot when it comes to pomp and ceremony and they must simply stage the ceremonies and the games in the English way. Keep it simple and keep the focus on the games. That ceremonies have become competitive in their own right is almost tragic; the Olympics and Paralympics are about sporting excellence; let’s not allow the ceremonies to detract from the sporting prowess of the athletes. The money spent on ceremonies is simply ludicrous; goodness knows how much went up in smoke adding to the polluted skies in Beijing. I am not a party pooper but surely there is a limit!

2010 – leaving it late?
In terms of staging the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the lesson we must learn from Beijing is that of changing the mindsets of our people. Beijing was greened with colourful flowers and
trees in bloom on every major island and pavement in the sprawling city. There was no litter. The Chinese were proud and made every effort to welcome foreigners from all corners of the globe.
My first experience of their honesty was when a representative of one of the Paralympic sponsors delegation realised that she had lost her purse which contained her valuables, from passport to cash to credit cards etc. The situation looked bleak until a humble Chinese cleaner emerged from the ladies bathroom clutching the purse and asking who may have
mislaid it. Relief personified! The cleaner, who undoubtedly earns a pittance, bowed and surrendered the purse to a tearful owner and went on her merry way, refusing to accept any form of reward. Makes you think!
In a nutshell: that the stadiums, hotels and transport infra structure will ready by 2010 I have no doubt. But when do we start the educating process of the ill effects of litter? When do we clamp down on unruly mobs that leave public parks, beaches and stadiums looking like trash dumps after a day out or a sporting occasion?
In Beijing, there was little need to clean the main stadium (Birds Nest) as the venue was non-smoking and those that bought refreshments at the stadium (or brought their own) simply bagged their litter and took it away with them to the recycle bins that were strategically placed throughout the whole Olympic Precinct.
My role in Beijing was to host the representatives of the team sponsors. What a privilege! The delegation was the nicest group of people that any one could wish to accompany. Our thanks as always to the team’s main sponsors: Coca – Cola, Mercedes – Benz South Africa, Nedbank, Pick n Pay, Sasol, SAA, Sun International, Telkom and Vodacom as well as the National Lotteries for their financial support. It unquestionably played a huge part in preparing for, and winning, the 30 medals won by this quality team.

Renewing vows
Since their return our heroic Beijing medallists have been on a road show, meeting sponsor Executives, staff and customers alike. It was humbling to see how the athletes responded to the throngs of adoring fans. I am thrilled that Telkom, Vodacom, Nedbank, SAA, Sasol and Pick n Pay have renewed their vows for the next Paralympiad and I am confident that our remaining partners will confirm their participation sooner rather than later.
My final honour was to act as Master of Ceremonies at the awarding of incentives from the “Pot of Gold”; an initiative that I embarked on with the sponsors. Almost R2 million was
apportioned amongst the gold, silver and bronze medallists at a function hosted by Sun International at the Palace of the Lost City – well deserved indeed! Gold medals attracted R66 000 each, silver R44 000 each and bronze R22 000, not silly money in any ones books!
A word of caution to the athletes: celebrate your success, don’t get caught in the trap of comparing the Paralympics to the Olympics and remember that these rewards are privileges and not rights. There never was a deal that indicated any reward other than the glory and honour of representing your country on the greatest stage of all!

Meddles vs medals – what a great world we would live in if our politicians would focus on medals as opposed to meddles! The saga of the Springbok emblem continues through one man’s determination to have it eradicated. The same man and his cronies were involved in the “Amakrokokroko” debacle; deeming the term derogatory, despite our team having christened themselves (with tongue in cheek) at the Atlanta Paralympic Games 1996.
Ironically, it is these two sports teams who have brought excellence to the nation on an ongoing basis, and it seems crazy that traditions should be upstaged by egos when our sport in general is in such a mess!

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