Two events on almost opposite ends of the world – and yet both could have big repercussions on sport in South Africa.
The one was a warning by Fifa, football’s world governing body, telling Iraq’s Olympic Committee to reinstate the national football association board it had dissolved or face suspension.
The similarity with what’s happening at home is frighteningly similar. The SA Olympic Committee, Sascoc, has suspended the board of Athletics SA (ASA) and on Monday finally moved into the federation’s headquarters to take over.
Make no mistake, I believe suspended ASA president Leonard Chuene and his cronies must go, and I also believe that he would never have left the organisation voluntarily – he had to be pushed. I support Sascoc’s move and I reckon it’s 100% justifiable.
But I do worry that the Fifa-Iraq example might be used as a precedent to thwart Sascoc’s efforts. So far the IAAF, the world athletics governing body, has not raised an objection. I hope they remain quiet and Chuene stays out!
The other event was a decision in Australia on Tuesday rejecting a request by the country’s Olympic committee for an additional $93-million per annum in funding.
A government-commissioned review said funding was biased towards Olympic sports which meant, for example, that archery received more government money than cricket, even though cricket has 100 times more participants.
The problem, it seems, is finding a balance between elite sports and mass participation.
That’s the exact debate that has raged in South Africa, with Sascoc being established in 2004 to handle high performance sport while the sports ministry was supposed to take sport to the masses.
Sascoc doesn’t receive much government funding to start with, but if Australia are prepared to sacrifice Olympic glory for mass participation, then that same ethos could be applied to South Africa.
Sascoc president Gideon Sam has said he wants to win 12 medals at the 2012 Games in London – a tough ask – and if the team fails, then it could permanently scupper any hopes that government will one day properly aid elite sport.
On the other hand, should the SA government again decide to back a local city’s bid to host the Games, then it would be prudent to pump money into elite sports.
Australia’s top Olympic performance came at the 2000 Sydney Games when they won 58 medals. In Athens four years later they won 49 and in Beijing last year 46.