Team South Africa were given two rousing send-offs to the 2014 Commonwealth Games on Tuesday.
The team, which will travel to Glasgow, Scotland and take on their Commonwealth counterparts across 15 different sporting codes, first travelled to the Union Buildings in Pretoria where they were addressed by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
“As you depart these shores I remind you that sport has always been an invaluable tool to promote social cohesion and unite our population,” the Deputy President told the gathered team.
“Sport is the glue that binds us and we have been part of former President Nelson Mandela’s winning nation ever since 1994.
“This is a most important journey that you are embarking on where you will meet other countries, people from other locales and language groups and you can demonstrate who you really are.
The Deputy President also reminded the team that the South Africans would be particularly noticed in Glasgow on Friday, 18 July.
“That Friday is Nelson Mandela Day as declared by the United Nations and people will look at you and say ‘these are Nelson Mandela’s children here in Glasgow.’
“The nation is fully behind you and that should embolden you. There are 51-million South Africans behind you.
“Remember that he who dares, wins.
“Dance on the world stage, own it, and show them who you are.”
SACOC President Gideon Sam told the team: “We are here to receive our commands from the Deputy-President .
“We will represent South Africa with honour and dignity. We as South Africans have never been below sixth in the Commonwealth Games medals table and I am of the opinion that we can’t go lower than fifth in Glasgow.
“We have always found the countries of India, Australia, Canada and England to be powerful opponents and at the moment we are battling with India for that medal table position.”
Also at the Union Buildings, Team South Africa’s official flagbearer was named as Cecil Afrika.
The veteran rugby sevens player will thus lead Team South Africa at the opening ceremony at Celtic Park on Wednesday, 23 July.
“Thank your for this privilege,” said a humble Afrika. “We will do our best and make South Africa proud… we are honoured to be here today.”
At the last Games in New Delhi, India, Team South Africa ended fifth on the medals table (alongside Kenya) with 33 medals (12 gold, 11 silver and 10 bronze).
Later in the evening the team assembled at the holding camp base in Boksburg for an extravagant and action-packed banquet dinner before their departure to Glasgow on Wednesday.
Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula wished the team well while among the speakers was British High Commissioner to South Africa, Mrs Judith Macgregor.
She said: “From 23 July to 3 August, 6,500 athletes and officials from 71 nations and territories will be in Glasgow for the 20th Commonwealth Games.
“And just like London 2012, everyone in the United Kingdom is looking forward to welcoming the Commonwealth at Glasgow 2014 and to make the Games a success. Team South Africa will be part of that excitement and I wish all your athletes every success at the Games.”
The Games will conclude with the closing ceremony at Hampden Park on Sunday, 3 August.
Picture: WESSEL OOSTHUIZEN/SASPA