Thursday, June 21, 2007

SA Cycling ‘too white’

While there is transformation in almost every other sport, it is notably absent in cycling

At the South African Cycling Championships held in Bloemfontein earlier this month, it was obvious that cycling has advanced a great deal over the past few years. Many riders are now producing performances that match international standards. One vital aspect of this sport that has broken away, to judge from the all white competitors, is that Cycling South Africa seems to have forgotten to address transformation.

While mainstream sports like Springbok rugby and the Proteas have gone to great lengths to accommodate more representative teams, and even other sports like hockey are adjusting to these imperatives, cycling has until now been completely overlooked.

It’s important to bear in mind that during the Olympics of 2000, even though the men’s hockey side qualified, they were not allowed to participate because the team lacked appropriate representation. In the same way, the cycling team for Beijing has not been selected, and one fears that if transformation isn’t implemented in some drastic fashion very soon, there will be no cycling team headed for the Olympics. This would naturally be a sad day both for the cyclists involved, and the South Africans supporting them.

The goal is to have teams (whether swimming, playing hockey or cycling) that are based on at least a 50/50 representation. South African cycling has a tough road ahead to meet these goals, as it appears, just from a cursory inspection of the hundreds of riders at the 2007 South African Championships, there was a mere handful of black riders. This proportion will have to increase something like 10 fold within the following few months.

Khaya Majeke*, manager of the South African Sport Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) is very serious about this; he has suggested that if sports show a lack of transformation, people should be found “on the streets, or in Alexandra. SASCOC,” Majeke said, “will insure demographic representation [in sports].”

The present Olympic team comprises 45 white and 28 black athletes. However SASCOC was irritated by the comparison made between the South African and Australian Olympic teams of 2004. South Africa managed just 9 medals in 2004 (with a budget of R60 million), while Australia harvested 49 medals (with a budget of R120 million). SASCOC said it preferred to make comparisons against other African countries.

Majeke has made it clear that the first step to dictate team composition will be based in setting criteria and authorizing an agreement to this effect by the Presidents of respective Sport Federations, and pending their approval. Mr Cedric Frolick, an ANC MP has demanded that those sports that do not conform to these prescriptions be identified.

*Translated and adapted from Gert Coetzee’s ‘Spanne se ‘kleur’: Druk al hoe groter’, Volksblad, 20 June 2007

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