Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula and SASCOC President Gideon Sam spoke spiritedly from the heart as they urged Team South Africa representatives on just a day before the official opening of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Minister Mbalula and Sam, the president of SA’s Olympic governing body provided inspirational support at South Africa House in Trafalgar Square on Thursday.
“We’re here in SA house with a national team that we can be proud of,” said Mbalula to loud applause. “This is it .. we have now arrived and its time to walk the talk.
“I’ve been to see how our athletes are getting on in the Olympic Village. They tell me it’s better than the village in Beijing (2008). They are all content and that is thanks to the British hospitality.
“Now it is a case of “Forwards Ever Backwards Never’.
“I also went to Coventry to watch our Banyana Banyana football girls where they went down 4-1 to Sweden.
“They lost but there was a beautiful goal from Portia Modise and these girls have already made us proud by being the first South African qualifiers for these Games. They represent the future generations of our sport and we support them fully. I told them South Africa is behind you.”
Mbalula also said the team must draw strength from Ernie Els’ victory in the British Open golf championships and Hashim Amla’s triple ton and South Africa’s Test cricket victory against England in recent days.
“It doesn’t get better than beating the English in their own backyard. I urge this team to fight with the ferocity of a cornered bull and the agility of a cat.”
For his part Sam said he remained committed to his goals of 12 medals in 2012. “Our President, Jacob Zuma, was very clear when he said recently that there is no doubt about 12 in 2012 and he himself said ‘go and get it’.
“It’s a given fact that the fat lady will sing on August 13 after the Games end and only then will I change my mind.
“I hear the talk that we may only get four medals but we can’t come here to London and then suddenly turn around and change our minds. We owe it to the athletes to stick to our task.
“We’re here to perform the athletes have worked hard since the last Olympics and now is their turn.”
And Sam said that whatever happened at these Games all he asked for is the team to give of their best.
“We’ll return with our heads high, knowing we have done our best. We certainly won’t arrive back at OR Tambo International and go into a hangar and hide! We won’t let you down.”
Welcoming the team, SA High Commissioner, Dr Zola Skweyiya, said: “Records are broken at the Olympics every four years because we have the world’s very best athletes competing. I’m hoping we can share with the world South Africa’s passion for sport.
“I wish you luck fly your flag high as ambassadors and to each one of you. I assure you of our total support.”