Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Parade of Champions from Atlanta Olympics and launch of the Olympic Bid Countdown Clock

5 September 1996

Olympic and Paralympic athletes
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

When our Olympic team left for Atlanta we expected them to show the world how much Africa's sportspeople could achieve, given the opportunity. When that opportunity came, our athletes excelled themselves.

We are proud of the courage of Penny Heyns, grabbing gold in each hand. Hezekiel and Marianne defied all odds and forced their way into the limelight. The extraordinary Josia Thugwane kept the best for last and made the rainbow flag fly over the closing ceremony of the Games.

To crown it all, our Paralympic superstars excelled beyond our wildest expectations, scooping a total of twenty-eight medals. They did us proud.

The thirty-three medals, including thirteen gold, were the fruit of team work and iron discipline. Both our teams stuck together throughout their campaigns, encouraging and consoling one another. Not once did we receive disturbing reports from management. Not a single disqualification or embarrassment.

Today we honour all our athletes who ensured that the rainbow flag never touched the ground in Atlanta. You inspired those teams that couldn't qualify this time around, but have set their sights on Sydney. In every way you have been role models for our youth and ambassadors for our nation.

The exploits of Atlanta laid the basis for the race we are beginning today. In this race there is only one medal - gold. Cape Town is competing with ten other bidding cities to host the 2004 Olympic Games.

In as much as our successes in the Olympic Games were part of Africa's growing excellence, so is Cape Town's bid Africa's own. It is part of the African renaissance; part of our confident assertion on the world stage.

The Government has given an undertaking to the International Olympic Committee that Cape Town's proposal will be honoured. We did so out of our conviction that Africa deserves a chance to host the Olympic Games in a unique African way. The Games have been staged in the four other continents. Now is the time for Africa to complete the five Olympic rings.

The Cabinet decided to endorse the bid after careful consideration of the facts and figures presented by the national and provincial governments and the Cape Town Metropolitan Council as well as the advice of the Development Bank of South Africa.

Now that the decision has been made, let us all join hands and together focus on how to win it. Unity is the key for us to take the gold. Our nation and continent have endorsed Cape Town because they have confidence in her competence.

The race before us will be short but very demanding. We are competing with some of the most experienced cities in the world. To win Cape Town will need the focused mind of a sprinter and the stamina of a marathon runner. From now until September 1997 it will be an around-the-clock operation. Discipline and team work must be a way of life.

Tight as the programme will be, the bid officials must never leave the people of Cape Town behind. They must be kept fully briefed, every step of the way. Their unqualified support will be indispensable for the success of the bid.

The construction that is going to happen must be seen as part of the Reconstruction and Development Programme. The stadia, the villages, and the improvements in the transport system will benefit the people of this city and the country for years to come, long after 2004. There must be no white elephants.

I appeal to the people of Cape Town and South Africa to accept this as their challenge - their duty to our country and to Africa. Give the bid committee all the assistance it requires. Even as the jobs are being created and the construction and renovation work unfolds, there will be disruptions to daily life and may be some stepping on one another's toes from time to time. But let us keep our eyes on long-term interests. Let us focus on the bid.

Remember, if Cape Town wins; South Africa wins; Africa wins!

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation