Sporting leaders on Wednesday accused the government of not doing enough to support the hosting of major events.
Those attending the Sports and Events Tourism Exchange Conference in Durban also threatened to boycott next year’s event if the government did not show commitment to addressing the country’s sporting challenges, which include transformation issues.
The absence of Minister of Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, who was meant to present on the topic of South Africa as a sports tourism destination, also seemed to have stirred discontent.
Brenda Madumise, the chairwoman of Cathsseta (Culture, Art, Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Education and Training Authority), did not hide her disappointment at Mbalula’s absence.
“I’m not going to say protocol observed because they have all left. Maybe that’s the problem,” she said.
“I will not attend the conference next year if we are still talking and not acting.”
The chief executive of the Gauteng Cricket Board, Cassim Docrat; the president of the South African Rugby Union, Oregan Hoskins; the chairman of the SA Golf Tourism Association, Thabiso Magodielo; and Gideon Sam, president of Sascoc (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee), were some of those who attended.
The chief executive of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations Local Organising Committee, Mvuzo Mbebe, said the Department of Tourism should get more involved in sports events.
“We create a platform. We are not marketing experts, but it becomes our responsibility because we are the organisers,” Mbebe said.
“The painful thing is, we host these events and it’s left to the sports administrators to fight over marketing, travel packages, transport, etc. It is unfair to the administrators.”
Docrat echoed Mbebe’s sentiments saying “concrete planning” was needed.
“Maybe, financially, cricket is in a better position, but we take the bull by the horns,” he said.
Docrat said one of his challenges was transporting fans to and from venues.
“JMPD [the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department] wants thousands and thousands of rands to put a few cops on the road,” he said.
On the issue of transformation, Docrat said: “As much as the government expects transformation from us [Cricket SA], they are not prepared to support us in the transformation process.”
Magodielo said South Africa, which was voted the best golfing destination in the world last year, deserved a piece of the booming industry.
“To government, please let’s put our money where our mouth is. Eighteen years ago, we were alive with possibilities. The possibilities are here – work with us,” he said.
Hoskins said without backing from political leaders, South Africa would suffer as a sporting nation.
“When New Zealand bid to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup, they showed up with their prime minister. Our head of state needs to be with us.”
Calling for leaders to give sport greater priority, he said: “There is very little doubt in my mind that while we thought sport should be at the bottom of the list of priorities, putting housing, food, health first, the intangible benefits that sport brings are totally underestimated.”
The panel agreed that a “unit” should be established to drive the overall strategy of hosting major sporting events. The panel proposed the establishment of a national body that would operate regardless of the administrators at the time, which would “guide” provinces hosting events.
Speaking about South Africa’s hopes of hosting an Olympic Games, Sam said: “If you ask anyone in the street, they’d say, ‘Yes, let’s go’, but the government of the country must have an appetite for it.
“We, as administrators, can’t read signs from the government in terms of if they have an appetite for big events.”
Concluding the discussion, Hoskins said sport was removed from schools because it was seen as a “luxury”, and the disastrous effects of that policy had been clear.
Sport was not a luxury but a necessity, he maintained.
Hoskins said: “When I look at the medals that we recently won at the Olympics, the value that they add is immeasurable. I can’t understand why we still think sport is a luxury.”