Address by President Nelson Mandela at President's Sports Awards function

4 October 1996

Master of Ceremonies,
Minister of Sport and Recreation Mr Steve Tshwete,
Guests of Honour,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a singular honour for me to be with you this evening, to share with you in paying tribute to South African sporting achievement. It was with deep regret that pressing commitments obliged me to postpone this function from September. Please accept my profoundest apologies for any inconvenience caused. I should add that I count myself lucky not to be a competitor as many of you are - athletes who are unavailable for an event at the appointed time are not given a second chance!

This function symbolises the nation's high esteem for the whole sporting community.

It also expresses the Government's total commitment to the promotion and development of sport and recreation amongst all our people. That commitment draws its strength from our knowledge that sport and recreation are indispensable ingredients in our drive to build a new nation. They are an essential part of our efforts to raise the quality of life of all South Africans, especially those emerging from deprivation.

I am aware of the disappointment that has been expressed concerning the budget allocation to sport.

Government's commitments, however, are not to be measured simply in terms of what goes to the state department from the state coffers. What matters is our success, hand in hand with other sectors of society, in mobilising the nation's limited resources to the best effect.

In the case of sport and recreation, what counts is our efforts in partnership with other stakeholders, to help create the environment which has seen the burgeoning of South African sport over the past tow years. This is what has made it possible to gather here this evening to confer decorations on deserving South African athletes.

We are very proud of them. They are our treasured possessions, jewels in our country's crown. They will know that their triumphs are celebrated by the entire Rainbow Nation whose banner they have raised high amongst the nations of the world. They will know that they occupy that soft spot in the hearts of millions of young South Africans as role models and standard bearers. And they should have no doubt in their minds about the huge social responsibility that comes with the status that the nation confers on them as a result of their achievements.

South African sport still has a long and winding road to travel before we reach the pinnacle of our dreams. our sports people have the standing and the influence to play a leadership role in achieving our ideal of making sport accessible to all our people, and to further raise sporting standards. They should not just be beneficiaries of the process. We expect to see them as active catalysts for change, not only in Olympism but in every area of sport.

The private sector's increasing involvement in sport is most encouraging. We should not let this opportunity pass without acknowledging the willingness of the sector to assist Government in making a fitting tribute to our Olympic and Paralympic medallists.

This spirit of partnership will stand us in good stead as we take on the challenge of persuading the International Olympic committee that Africa is the right continent and Cape Town the right city to host the 2004 Olympic Games. The government has confidence in the organisers of the Bid to put up a convincing presentation to the IOC Evaluation team at the end of the year. But we should all remember that success depends on the united support of all of us: government; business; sports administrators; athletes; and the public at large.

Ladies and gentlemen;

Our Olympic and Paralympic medallists deserve a special tribute from us all tonight. In competition with the world's best they did our nation proud, and the nation is proud of them. Together with your whole team you achieved the most important thing: - to reach new heights in striving for excellence and, whether we win or lose, to do our best in true sporting spirit.

Atlanta was the culmination of a series of sporting event sin the past year that have given impetus to the New Patriotism that is building our country. Time after time our whole nation united around our national teams and they in turn excelled with dazzling performances on field and track; in the ring and in the water' indeed in every arena of sporting prowess.

It is therefore my great pleasure and pride, on behalf of the people of South Africa, to confer the awards to our sports persons, administrators and officials for outstanding achievements during the period 1995/6.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website