Get behind Paralympic Team SA!
21 August 2012
Serenaded by top singers, saluted by an Olympic gold medallist and inspired by the sports minister, Team South Africa were given a splendid send-off to the Paralympics at a banquet in Sandton, Johannesburg on Monday night.
The team fly out on Tuesday evening for the 2012 London Olympics, which begin on 29 August and end on 9 September.
Lead SA together with the Department of Sport and Recreation and the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) have called on Johannesburg resident to join a send-off for the team at OR Tambo International Airport at 4.30pm.
"Team SA had us gripped with Olympic fever, and it's time for our Paralympic team to build on this momentum and inspire the nation," said LEAD SA.
"Let's show the team that we're 100% behind them."
One of the songs song by Arno Carstens was titled "You can't fly with broken wings", particularly apt for the Paralympians who have had to deal with so much adversity in their bid to make London 2012.
But this team of 62 will be looking to fly out and emulate the class of Beijing 2008 which brought back 30 medals, 21 of them gold.
Starting Monday night's proceedings, South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) CEO Tubby Reddy expressed confidence in the team's ability. "A few years ago there were detractors who wondered if Sascoc could embrace the Paralympics as well as the Olympics, but we're confident.
"Most if not all of this team are ranked in the top four or five in the the world in their event, and I urge the public to get behind them."
Sascoc president Gideon Sam said: "When the Paralympic flame is extinguished after the 2012 Games, the victory flames will be lit across South Africa. This team gathered here tonight will make South Africa proud and will fight to improve on their last haul."
Sam also announced that Paralympic legend Oscar Pistorius would be the Team SA flagbearer at the opening ceremony.
Speaking from Italy where he's currently at a training camp, Pistorius said: "This will be something I'll treasure for the rest of my life. Let's bring back those medals."
A surprise speaker on Monday night was ace swimmer Cameron van der Burgh, who started the country's Olympic medals haul in London just over three weeks ago.
"I'm not going to try and motivate you guys," Van der Burgh said. "I have so much respect for you guys already, and you have proved you have what it takes. If anything, we should be taking notes from you!
"I'm definitely one of your biggest supporters and will be watching you guys on TV. Go and do South Africa proud."
The last speaker of the evening, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula, was, as usual, full of praise for the nation's sportsmen and women.
"Oscar Pistorius and Natalie du Toit have already shown us by previous performances that they are humanity at its best. And in fact, Parliament will take time on the 28th of this month to salute our sportsmen and women," Mbalula said.
"The Paralympians have never disappointed us, and you all deserve your special place."