‘Oscar Month’ falls from grace

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Tweeted picture by Dion Chang of an M-Net billboard of Oscar Pistorius being taken down in Rivonia, Sandton.

Johannesburg - Just two days ago, Oscar Pistorius had everything going for him.

He was the face of M-Net’s “Oscar Month” this month, was billed to compete at the Sydney and Perth instalments of the 2013 Qantas Australian Athletics Tour next month, and was also planning to launch his own foundation in July.

But as of Thursday morning, when the country awoke to the news that he had shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, things took a wrong turn for the Blade Runner.

Following his arrest, a slew of public speculation, comment and grief were unleashed on social networks, online news sites and from his sponsors.

M-Net was the first of his sponsors to publicly react to news of his arrest, pulling him out of the entire Oscars live coverage campaign “out of respect and sympathy for the bereaved”, said the channel’s spokeswoman, Lani Lombard.

“M-Net concluded a once-off, short-term contract with Oscar Pistorius for a six-week campaign to promote the Academy Awards; that agreement has come to an end,” she added.

By 3pm on Thursday, the billboard with Pistorius advertising the campaign along Rivonia Road in Sandton had been pulled down.

Nike SA, one of Pistorius’s sponsors, declined to comment on the future of their sponsorship with Pistorius, saying they were sending their condolences to Steenkamp’s family.

Oakley SA, another of his sponsors, also declined to comment.

A joint statement issued on Thursday by SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam and chief executive Tubby Reddy said: “Sascoc, like the rest of the public, knows no more than what is in the public domain, which is that there has been an alleged fatal shooting on the basis of a mistaken identity and an apparent assumption of a burglary.

“The organisation is in no position to comment on the incident other than to say our deepest sympathy and condolences have been expressed to the families of all concerned.”

The news also made international headlines.

CNN talk-show host Piers Morgan tweeted: “Absolutely shocking news about Oscar Pistorius. What on earth has gone on here?”

Pistorius had appeared on both Morgan and Jay Leno’s talk shows last year.

Several international news televisions channels ran with the story in their “breaking news” segments.

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