Address by President Nelson Mandela at the presentation of the "Cape Town Bid" at the 106th Session of the International Olympic Committee

5 September 1997

Mr President, Juan Antonio Samaranch;
My Lords and Ladies;
Your Excellencies;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

To identify myself, let me begin by saying that I am a 79-year old South African.

Consequently, I carry with me the frailties of my age and the fetters of prejudice that are a privilege of my years.

And yet my presence here today has given a remarkable youthfulness to my spirit.

As I reflect on the purposes for which we are gathered here today, I seen to arrive more firmly at the conclusion that my own life struggle has had meaning only because, dimly and perhaps incoherently, it has sought to achieve the supreme objective of ensuring that each, without regard to race, colour, gender or social status, could, like every Olympian, have the possibility to reach for the skies.

We owe a debt of gratitude to you, who are the custodians of the Olympic movement, that you continue to open the window of opportunity to millions of the youth of our common world to sustain the everlasting search for the attainment of that excellence which expands the frontiers of life for all humanity.

We owe thanks to you that you create the many possibilities for the young to gain confidence and pride in themselves and to enhance their own sense of self-respect. Thus do they become heroes and heroines in their own villages and towns, their countries, continents and the world, through success in peaceful competition. Thus do they become better human beings as a result of the conduct of a struggle within themselves for personal discipline and the sustenance of an unflagging commitment to the development of a sound mind within a sound body.

I say these things in part because I am a citizen of a continent which must and will surely succeed in the quest for its own renewal because, as duly happens with the Olympic laureate, it will have restored to its own high pedestal the idea that what is good or bad in the conduct of human affairs should be measured by whether it expands or diminishes life in all its complexity.

The African march to the new future has begun.

It is a march to a future which will be new, because it will define our African world in the image of the shared and caring universe that must surely characterise the Olympic Games.

We are in Lausanne and appear before you today to request that you enable Africa to host the Olympic Games of the new century and millennium, to give the African march to the new future, the great and unequaled impetus it needs and deserves.

We trust that you will hear our plea, which is motivated neither by a spirit of antipathy towards any of the other competing cities nor a search for glory.

Rather, we are moved by the deep conviction that very rarely does humanity have such an opportunity, as the one presented to you today, distinguished members of the IOC, a day which cannot be postponed, to reaffirm, universally, the critical importance of the Games to the historical project of the creation of a better world.

In the mind's eye I see the youth of the world gathered at the foot of Table Mountain to fulfill themselves, to give joy to millions, to celebrate peace and to participate in and sponsor the rebirth of a continent.

As part of such a moment, even the old, such as I, would have every reason to feel young again, to set aside the prejudices of old age - to say that the sacrifices we all made to end apartheid have given us the possibility to do new things that make a better world.

I thank you all for all you have done in the past, which restored to us our human dignity and thank you, most sincerely, for listening to our humble message.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation