R100m for 10 Olympic medals?

Gideon Sam (Gallo Images)
Gideon Sam (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) needs more than R100 million to properly prepare the team for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro – and achieve its 10-medal target.

TeamSA secured six medals – three gold, two silver and one bronze – at the London Olympics in 2012. The target was 12.

SASCOC president Gideon Sam said it would not be easy to raise the money but the governing body would depend on regular funders like the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Sport and Recreation SA and Olympic Solidarity funding.

Sam told City Press this week that the amount needed for athletes’ support programmes "just pale into insignificance when compared with what the UK did for London [Olympics] in supporting [their] athletes."

According to UK Sport, Team Great Britain received £264 million (R4.6 billion) for their 541 athletes who scooped 65 medals at the London Olympics.

TeamSA received nearly R100 million for the London Olympics and Paralympics, according to SASCOC’s financial statements for the year ended March 2013.

This included R50 million from the Lottery, R22.5 million from sponsorship and R27 million from the sports ministry.

"We certainly need a big amount, which is difficult to come by," said Sam.

“So when we pitch at R50 million, we know it will get us there but it is not ideal. That’s how I look at what we can get and how much we can assist our athletes. If you really want to resource the operation excellence programme (Opex) properly, you need in excess of R100 million.

“That will take care of individual athletes, teams, coaches, technical staff and equipment for athletes in rowing and canoeing,” he added.

Opex offers financial, medical and scientific support to “medal contenders” – but it has over the years attracted criticism due to the stringent criteria used to select athletes.

“Opex is clear: give us the [training and competition] programme and account for the money you get,” said Sam.

There are currently 67 athletes – 33 Olympics and 34 Paralympics – on the Opex programme, while 10 are on the national academy support programme.

Sam said the intake would increase in June, based on progress made by athletes.

According to Sam, SASCOC’s council meeting at Olympic House last Saturday, which was attended by 71 national sports federations and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, was mainly centred on the athletes.

It also measured progress on objectives set by the council in 2013, themed “going for gold” in Rio 2016.

“After Saturday [last week] there was positiveness. We were able to foster partnerships and relationships with other countries to help in the preparation of our athletes,” he noted.

Sam pointed out that SASCOC had secured a world-class training facility in Gemona, Italy, for South African athletes and para-athletes to use as a springboard for competitions in Europe, until next year.

“In June, we’ll be taking our judokas, weightlifters and wrestlers to train in Kazakstan. We have also spoken to Qatar [sports council] to involve our jumpers when they have programmes running,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) evaluation committee will be in the country from April 26 to May 1 to assess Durban as the bidding city for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

The decision on hosting rights will be made during the CGF general assembly in Auckland, New Zealand, on September 2.

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