Address by President Nelson at the 1997 Presidential Sports Awards

15 August 1997

Master of Ceremonies;
Minister of Sport;
Cabinet Ministers;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

When democratic South Africa was accepted into international sport many believed that it would take at least a decade before we reached world standards. Scarcely four years down the line, the sceptics have been confounded.

South African men and women are making indelible marks in many disciplines. It is therefore a great honour to host the sports community tonight, so that we can together pay tribute to our nation's sporting achievements.

The past year has seen us take great strides in establishing ourselves as a nation that excels in sport. In boxing, athletics, golf and hockey, as well as other disciplines, our national competitors have done us proud and they continue to set new standards.

Even more significant has been the profound role of sport in general, and these victories in particular, in nation-building and reconciliation. Sport remains central to the forging of the New Patriotism that is binding our nation.

We can also take pride in our hosting of international events. The World Championships in Fencing, Weightlifting And Cycling showed that the Rugby World Cup and the African Cup of Nations were not just once-off achievements.

All these successes form part of the glittering constellation of sporting attainments.

They are helping to take us into an era in which sport can make a significant contribution to economic development. We must make the most of this opportunity. We must strengthen the partnership between government, business and the sporting community. Amongst other things we need to create a code of conduct, an ethical code, for the business of sport in our country. That will form part of a unique sporting infrastructure in South Africa, that will create jobs and contribute to growth.

Our nation is also drawing benefit from the initiatives of Sport Against Crime, and Aids in Sport, launched by the Sport and Recreation Department together with other departments.

The achievements of the past year are keeping us headed in the right direction. We think too of the increasing prominence in sport of women and people with disabilities, as well as agreement on policies to promote representivity. These are important indicators of our country's desire that all should have a place in the sunshine of sport. There is still room for improvement, but the practical commitment is making itself felt.

Ladies and gentlemen;

This weekend all eyes will be on the FNB Stadium where Bafana Bafana have a date with destiny. I am convinced, however, that come Monday, French language institutions will experience the greatest flood of applications to date.

Within the next three weeks we will know whether Cape Town will take its place as Africa's first host city of the Olympic Games.

We are ready to host the Olympic games. We have demonstrated our capacity to host major events. Our people and our continent's people want the games. Hosting the games in Africa will add concrete meaning to the five rings symbolising the continents of the world united in harmony and understanding under the Olympic banner.

We believe that a Cape Town 2004 Olympics will promote the Olympic creed by integrating development with the games. That will strengthen the Olympic message across the developing world. It will fuel the momentum of the African renaissance. It will also enhance still further the power of sport to unite our nation.

In conclusion, may I congratulate tonight's recipients on their achievements. By your example and influence, as role-models and standard-bearers, you inspire millions of people nationwide.

May tonight's awards be a challenge to our whole sporting community to continue to be worthy of the nation's admiration and respect.

I thank you!

Source: South African Government Information Website