Johannesburg - On Monday night, the story broke that South Africa’s Olympic medal winners wouldn’t be getting any financial reward for winning medals at the recent Tokyo Olympics that ended the day before.
We won only three medals – a gold and a silver (plus a brace of Olympic records and a world record) by Tatiana Schoenmaker and a silver in the inaugural surfing competition by Bianca Buitendag.
It wasn’t the best showing we’ve had, but you might argue that competing in a pandemic with the unimaginable pressures of Covid-19 protocols; bio-bubbles and earbuds rammed up your nose into your brain at every conceivable juncture, was worthy of a medal just for getting there. That’s before you think about how the athletes’ training was disrupted by interminable lockdowns and disrupted access to training facilities.
All the other medal winners in previous games got performance bonuses. Indeed, in the era of Mr Fixit/Fearfokol/Moer Hulle Mbalula our Olympic heroes were probably best rewarded – and rightfully so. Wayde van Niekerk, in particular, pocketed R550 000. Silver medallists got R200 000, with R80 000 for bronze medals. Their coaches got something too.
But no, that’s not the reason, even though our Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa roused himself from funeral eulogies and renaming towns to bemoan the results and play the race card about the demographics of the squad; ignoring his own government’s efforts to render the playing fields unplayable by taking sport off the curriculum at township schools especially.
Apparently, the reason is that there’s no money in the kitty.
It’s galling when you think of the numbers bandied about at the state capture commission. It’s appalling when you think of the remuneration that The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) members get – or the other perks of “office”.
The timing as always was, in typical South African fashion, priceless: Monday was Women’s Day – a day that, sadly, remains as important today as it was 65 years before at the Union Buildings. The irony was inescapable: our only medals were won by women.
In equally typical South African fashion, two things happened – the suits as Sascoc woke up and started backing out at speed at the wave of public revulsion that was building – and other South Africans started a crowd-funding platform. It started off small with a couple of cases of wine, but it’s slowly gathering momentum and it’s going to get properly embarrassing.
If there was an event for the triple jump of hypocrisy, expediency and opportunism, Sascoc would swamp the podium. It went from no money to not wanting to disclose the purse to distract the athletes beforehand and now sweating sponsors to fill the piggy bank.
Sascoc is living proof that those who can compete do, those who can’t coach, and those who can do neither go into sports administration.
We have brilliant sports stars who triumph against the odds but our administrators are world beaters; gold medallists beating our politicians into silver in the gravy train stakes.
What a bunch of pricks run Sascoc. The name really fits.