Address by President Nelson Mandela at the President's Sports Awards Function, Cape Town

16 May 1995

Master of Ceremonies;
Minister of Sport and Recreation, Steve Tshwete;
Guests of Honour;
Ladies and gentlemen.

I am honoured to share with you one of South Africa's most prestigious annual sports occasions.

Tonight's function has a special significance.

For the first time, decorations are being awarded under the banner of democracy. Hand in hand with our political transition, a broader vision of a non-racial, free and vigorous sports community is coming into being. In this process there is a clear message, that we can play and recreate together as South Africans in a country to which we all owe undivided allegiance.

The dawn of this new era was not achieved by political organisations alone. The great majority of our sports people, of every colour, recognised clearly that the abnormal practices of apartheid severely handicapped their development and stature, at home and abroad.

Allow me to take this opportunity to commend you all for your contribution towards this new beginning, the new flag, the new symbols, the new anthems and the new sporting ethos.

Ladies and gentlemen.

On behalf of the Government, and indeed all South Africans, I am delighted to welcome the recipients of the decorations, their friends and family members.

As pioneering sports persons, and as administrators and coaches, you have demonstrated dedication to sport, excellence; and an ability to humble yourselves even under the most challenging of circumstances.

These qualities will ensure your continuing contribution to sport and earn you the lasting respect of your country. South Africa remembers with pride the magnanimity in defeat which Elana Meyer demonstrated in Barcelona, when she proclaimed with her vanquisher the sanctity of the Olympic principle that participation is more important than winning. Mind you, we expect you, Elana, to reverse that dictum next year, even if for a moment!

The country expects much of its sporting figures, not only in the field of sport.

You have much to give to the process of reconciliation and nation-building. Sport, and the example and influence of leading athletes, can make an impact in tackling some of our serious social problems. These include the restoration of the culture of teaching and learning in our schools, and the reintegration of the so-called marginalised youth into the mainstream of society. Likewise with the problems of violence and drug abuse.

The Olympic Truce to be observed during the 1996 Games eloquently demonstrates the positive influence that sport can make. I heartily welcome the central themes of these Games: global peace; strengthening of family ties; and general upliftment of young people. I know the message will touch a chord in all our hearts!

Ladies and gentlemen;

A partnership of all sectors of society is busy transforming our society in order to address the legacy of apartheid.

Achieving the sports goals we have set for ourselves will depend on close teamwork between government and the sport world.

On its part, Government is committed to the creation of an ideal climate for sport to thrive. Within the constraints of our budget, recognition and development.

With the acceptance of democratic South Africa into international sport and the achievements of our teams and individuals, we have developed a new spirited patriotism. Our national teams now enjoy the support of all South Africans.

This is the spirit with which our nation will be approaching the coming World Rugby Cup - both in fulfilling the honour of hosting this prestigious event, and giving our support, in our millions, to our magnificent 15.

This new and fresh approach amongst our people has enhanced the Government of National Unity's efforts to build a new South African nation. It is an approach that should be rewarded with an acceleration of the movement towards the day when all our teams shall be truly representative of our people.

Ladies and gentlemen;

I am confident that tonight's awards will encourage the recipients to build on their successful sports careers and continue to serve our country as the role models and ambassadors that they are.

I wish to congratulate all these deserving men and women for the successes they have scored, sometimes under circumstances that were not encouraging.

Attainments in sport depends much on the support of family, friends and community. On this occasion we should remember them and thank them for what they have given.

On behalf of the people of South Africa, I now wish to reward our sports persons, administrators and officials for their outstanding achievements during 1993 and 1994.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation