(Editor’s Note. The start of the 2012 Summer Olympics is now barely 3 months away. The following story demonstrates the continued (and perhaps inevitable) link between politics and sport).
A row has broken out in South Africa after it was revealed that Chinese company Erke are to sponsor and manufacture the team’s kit for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics in a $4 million (£2.5 million/€3 million) deal.
Local pressure groups in the country are furious with the deal but the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) claim that they were forced to look abroad because no-one in the country would sponsor them.
The launch of the kit took place at a function in Johannesburg and was attended by 2008 Olympic silver medalist and long jumper Khotso Mokoena, football player Amanda Dlamini, swimmers Cameron van der Burgh and Chad Ho, and Paralympics stars including track legend Oscar Pistorius, swimmer Natalie du Toit and javelin thrower Zanele Situ, along with wheelchair basketball player, Marius Papenfus.
Also revealed at the launch was Chukuru the rhino, South Africa’s Olympic mascot, who was chosen from a shortlist of six characters.
“It’s vitally important that our athletes feel not only comfortable and at home in their kit but also extremely proud and honored whenever they wear it, be it in competition or out of competition,” said Tubby Reddy, the chief executive of SASCOC.
“The mere pride and feel-good factor of the wearing of the national kit should serve to up their performance by a few levels.”
Until now, Erke’s best-known sponsorship was of the North Korean football team that qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
“I’m confident that our kit manufacturing company, Erke, have come up with cutting edge apparel for our men and women in London,” said Reddy.
But Proudly South African (PSA), a coalition dedicated to furthering the cause of local manufacturing, have vowed to get the deal scrapped.
“The news that the manufacturing of South Africa’s national team kit is done in China is a mockery and an insult to efforts by local constituencies to promote local goods and services,” said Leslie Sedibe, the chief executive of PSA.
Their campaign, though, seems set to fall on stony ground.
“People are missing the point here, we are not buying [the replicas] from China,” said Reddy.
“This is a sponsorship deal.”
Gideon Sam, the President of SASCOC, also backed the deal.
“I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, our athletes are central to everything we do,” he said.
“Without them there would be nothing so it’s only obvious that we want them to love what they’ll be wearing.
“It stands to reason that if they’re happy with the outfits and proud to be wearing them, it will allow them to focus on what they’re there for.
“And that’s giving their all for their country and hopefully also winning medals for us.”
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org This article first appeared in the blog, insidethegames.biz. This is an online tool used by the organizing committee for the London Olympics. This article is reprinted here with permission. The article appears at the following URL: http://www.insidethegames.biz/olympics/summer-olympics/2012/sponsors/16539-south-africans-upset-over-london-2012-deal-with-chinese-company.