CAPE TOWN –The International Olympic Committee pulled the plug on Team South Africa’s attire they had planned to wear at the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympic Games due to the fact that it bore an image of late President Nelson Mandela.
South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) President Gideon Sam acknowledged the fact after reporting back to Parliament’s Sports Committee in Cape Town yesterday, where the issue of Team South Africa’s controversial Olympic tracksuit was firmly in the spotlight.
Members of Parliament (MPs) quizzed Sam and Sport and Recreation’s Alec Moemi on a wide range of matters following the Olympic and Paralympic Games but the issue of the ‘Ninja Turtle’ apparel dominated.
It was learnt during the Games that Sascoc had to make a last-minute change for the opening ceremony at the Maracana Stadium from their multi-coloured alternate kit, bearing the national flag and an image of Mandela, to their green and gold outfit. Both were supplied by sponsor 361-Degrees.
Numerous requests to the IOC has seen them consistently refer the inquiry back to Sascoc but highlighted Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter which bans political displays or protests. The use of Mandela’s image would have fallen foul of this on the night.
Athletes and team officials did however wear the outfit for the duration of the Games, but never on the medal podium.
Sam it was a pity an exception wasn’t made.
“It is true. You are not allowed to put an image that depicts, in our case, an icon like Madiba without getting permission from the IOC.”
Sam says they could have gone ahead and worn it but it would have required that Mandela’s face be covered.
“Otherwise we would have had to put a black cover and that would spoil the whole outfit.”
Sam says they wanted to honour Madiba’s memory.
“For us it was ‘here is a man we believed in’, but it was pointed out to us by IOC organisers that that is not acceptable.”