Italian town says ‘ciao’ to Oscar

2013-03-03 10:01

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Murder accused Oscar Pistorius has lost another sponsor – the Italian town of Gemona.

The town’s mayor, Paolo Urbani, told City Press this week he had suspended the contract after the athlete was arrested for murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

In an interview at his office in the northern Italian town, Urbani said the town will not continue with payments to Pistorius after it signed a five-year sponsorship deal with him in November.

“The contract with Oscar is suspended. We are not in a hurry to find a new ambassador,” the mayor said.

Gemona appointed Pistorius as ambassador for its sport programme in 2011.

The contract entailed a cash amount of about R177 000 per year plus accommodation costs and other expenses.

Pistorius trained in Gemona during the 2011 and 2012 European summers.

His agent, Peet van Zyl, also took other South African athletes to the town in an effort to promote Gemona as a training ground for athletes who compete in Europe.

Urbani emphasised that the project was bigger than Pistorius.

He said: “The sport project goes on,” and disputed reported claims by Pistorius in an interview with women’s magazine Sarie that the municipality built an athletics track and gym for him.

He showed City Press a letter dated December 15 2009 from the Friuli regional authority, under which Gemona falls.

The letter approved spending of €306 000 (about R3.6 million) for renovations to the Gemona athletics track.

This was more than a year before the town convinced Pistorius to become its ambassador.

Urbani strongly denied he made promises to Pistorius the first time they met at an awards ceremony in July 2010.

“I don’t even speak English!” he told City Press, speaking through a translator.

He said the contract with Pistorius makes provision for suspension if the athlete is not able to fulfil his responsibilities in Gemona.

Other victims of the Pistorius incident are young South African athletes who are managed by Van Zyl.

Urbani said: “We’ve got another contract with the young athletes, but it is only valid if Oscar came with them,”

He pointed out that Gemona has a good relationship with Van Zyl and would like to continue the deal with the athletes after a discussion.

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