Speech at the Presidential Sports Awards, Pretoria – 1999/11/05

Pretoria 5 November 1999

Minister of Sport and Recreation, Ngconde Balfour,
Esteemed Winners of the Presidential Sports Award,
Cabinet Colleagues,
Premiers and MECs,
Members of Parliament,
Sports Administrators, Sponsors of Sport, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am honoured to be here tonight as we pay tribute to our country’s sports achievers for their outstanding performances.  This awards function represents our nation’s high regard for the entire sports community of South Africa. It also indicates the government’s total commitment to the promotion and development of sport and recreation amongst all our people.

This commitment derives from our knowledge that sport and recreation serve to build our nation and are an essential part of our effort to improve the quality of life of all South Africans, especially those who were deprived in the past.

All of us have been witness to the contribution of sport to this nation-building, as South Africans from all races rejoiced or grieved together and gave full support to our sports stars.

I am confident that, as we overcome the legacy of our discriminatory past, the day will come when in every major sports tournament, our teams will, like the supporters, be composed of South Africans of all colours and creeds.

Tonight we recognise and pay tribute to our talented sports men and women for being the highly motivated, highly skilled and well-trained young men and women that they are.

We thank you for representing our nation to the best of your abilities and for making us proud to be South African.

To many of us, you are our heroes and heroines who have brought glory upon us, who have performed great deeds for all of us, who will continue to take us to even greater heights of fulfillment.

I believe that our sports men and women, including those who are here today, must see themselves as we see them, as a crucial component part of our narrative of national progress.

Your commitment to excellence in your respective codes and the maintenance of high standards must serve as a reminder to all South Africans to work hard, to persevere and to strive to excel in all spheres of our national life.

And as I have said in the past, I believe that one of the challenges facing our government, sports administrators, practitioners and sponsors is how to encourage and revive our indigenous traditional sports.

I am certain this process would help us to draw greater numbers of our youth into sport, without any need for large investments in infrastructure, prepare these young people to participate in the Olympic codes and help in our struggle to build our national identity.

South African sport has a long way to go before we reach our goal of ensuring that the millions of our people, both young and old, participate in one sport or another.

We believe that our sports men and women must and can play a vital role in achieving our ideal of making sport accessible to all our people.

Clearly, the South African Sports Commission will help to accelerate the elimination of remaining obstacles to the development of sports opportunities for all South Africans.

I am also pleased to take advantage of this important event to thank and salute those within the private sector who are making a critical contribution by sponsoring our various sporting activities, including events such as this evening’s Sports Awards Ceremony.

I would also like to urge others within the private sector who have not yet done so, to do what they can to increase the resources we put into sport.

We are here tonight to celebrate the achievements of our sports achievers.

Although we may not have many young people with us this evening, we know that the recipients of this Presidential Award occupy a fond space in the hearts of millions of young South Africans as role models and standard bearers.

During recent months have had our own share of triumphs and disappointments in our international sports engagements. Throughout it all, whether in victory or in defeat, we had cause to be proud of all our sportspeople.

Our congratulations go especially to these who, this evening, receive the Presidential Sports Award, who have been so central to everything we have achieved as a country in the area of sport.

May they continue along their winning ways!

May South African sport go from strength to strength as we strive to build a great African sporting nation.

Thank you.


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