‘ONS gaan Londen toe! (We are going to London)” – this was the song that got SA’s Paralympians going at OR Tambo International Airport yesterday afternoon.
The crowd joined in the fun and everyone in attendance was in a jolly mood at the team send-off.
The athletes said they were ready to take on the world and their supporters should stay glued to their TVs because they would definitely bring back gold.
Kevin Paul was 17 when he went to his first Paralympic Games in 2008.
“Your name is the first thing given in life and the last thing people remember you by,” he said.
The swimmer said the entire team would be remembered when they returned from the games.
Runner Hilton Langenhoven thanked the crowd for its support.
“We’ll bling bling with the razzmatazz when we return, ke nako!” he told Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Mbalula asked the crowd if they were angry, because they were a bit subdued.
“You must be jubilant, this a send-off,” he said.
Mbalula saluted all the women who had given birth to the athletes.
“Bring back the gold. This is about the triumph of the human spirit,” he said.
“Know that 49 million South Africans will be glued to their screens, giving prayers and blowing vuvuzelas,” he said.
Mbalula said the nation was still mourning the Marikana tragedy and it was up to the athletes to bring hope and joy to the masses. “Walk tall and be proudly South African, long live!” he said.
Families held posters that read “Hennie keep their gold medals safe”; “Chenelle you make us proud”; and “Good luck Zivan”.
The families took photos with their loved ones before bidding them farewell.
The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee’s Gideon Sam thanked the crowd for coming out.
“We are with them all the way to London. We will be happy when they perform. They’ve done it in the past. Just go and do it again,” he said.
The Paralympians will return on September 10.