Address by President Nelson Mandela at the International Amateur Athletics Federation World Cross Country Championships, Stellenbosch

23 March 1996

Dr Nebiolo, President of the International Amateur Athletics Federation;
Honourable Ministers;
President of Athletics South Africa;
Ladies and gentlemen.

It gives me a great pleasure to welcome the International Amateur Athletics Federation family to South Africa, on the occasion of the 24th World Cross Country Championship. This event brings back fond memories of my childhood days, when as a school pupil I used to participate in cross country myself.

The staging of this contest in our country for the first time is a great boost to the development of athletics in South Africa and to the building of our rainbow nation. We are grateful to the IAAF for its confidence in Athletics South Africa and for its powerful affirmation of democratic South Africa's place in the international community of nations.

We extend a warm embrace to the athletes who have converged from across the world to compete on South Africa soil. As you test yourself you are also uniting the people of each nation and the nations of the world in admiration of your courage, endurance and skill.

Cross country is even more accessible than other forms of athletics because it does not require special facilities and equipment. For this reason it can introduce athletics even to rural areas, and this event will certainly help accelerate the development of the sport throughout the length and breadth of our country.

Ladies and gentlemen;

May I take the opportunity to thank the IAAF, and Dr Nebiolo personally, for their contribution, both financial and otherwise, towards the development of athletics in our country. His inspiration is soon to take shape in the building of a track in Soweto. We need such facilities to bring top class events to townships, previously excluded from full participation, and to build athletics into a truly national sport.

With continued support from the IAAF, and with all the structures of Athletics South Africa joining hands, I am confident that we can look forward to great progress in the challenging task of developing athletics in our country. Success in that direction will help cement and consolidate the unification of the sport. It will help make pride in our athletes a part of South Africa's New Patriotism.

Mr President; I know you are holding your council meeting here over the next two days. I wish you well in your deliberations.

And may I urge you and all our visiting athletes to find time to explore the splendour of our beautiful country and experience the warm hospitality of our people.

Thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website