Reality bites!

Andy Scott, Chief Operating Officer of The Sports Trust, takes a look at some of the hype around the branding of our athletes.

Reality bites!

In the twilight of Paralympic glory, I revel at the debate that still rings in the bars, shebeens and coffee shops. The leading question is: does “Amakrokokroko” superstar Oscar Pistorius have an unfair advantage?

“Are these people for real?” is what I ask. All the hype about less body weight, springs (as opposed to blades) blah, blah, blah, fascinates me! The kid is a superstar, born to run, a young express athlete with an unbelievably mature head on his shoulders. I wait for the day (that will surely come) when he wins a high profile able-bodied event. That will certainly open the can of worms! He deserves an Oscar for fuelling the debate that keeps the Paralympic flame burning long after the event.

There’s that name again – “Amakrokokroko”- the debate rages on, will they discard it, opt for another name? I reckon it will be very tricky to change it. An established brand is always hard to change, especially if it is linked to success. Just ask the folks at Nedbank – is it the “Nedbank Golf Challenge” or “The Million Dollar?”

I was at the helm of the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic team which christened themselves not realising that they were about to be bathing in controversy. The name was out of the spirit of “Amabokkebokke” and “Bafana-Bafana”; it gave the media licence to report without being sensitive though most of all it gave this glorious team an identity that once again led to strong debate. I personally hope they don’t change it though if it’s the consensus of particularly the athletes and the disabled community at large then I guess it would have to go – for the right reasons I hope!

Disabled people are allowed to laugh at themselves and at each other – it is not derogatory to do so – unless of course there is a sinister motive.

I recall when I got back from the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney I was spotted by an ardent fan of the amber liquid in a bar in downtown Hermanus. “You took the Paralytic team to Sydney!” he exclaimed. With my newfound identity crisis I quickly worked out that within his vocabulary and the use of the prefix “Para” he probably applies the following:

“Paradise” – Robot to robot in a wheelchair!
“Paranoid” – Very angry disabled person!
“Paraffin” – Disabled shark supporter!
“Apparent” – Disabled mom or dad!
“Parasite” – Place for viewing disabled folk!

Still on Paralympic matters, I was at the “Pot of Gold” function at Sun City where around R1,2 million in cash and kind was split amongst the medallists. These athletes dedicate time for training and competition (as do the others) and bring glory to our land, the awards bestowed on them all were simply a way of saying thank you, remember, Paralympics at this stage are about medals and glory both personal and for your country. Stay humble in your quest to be the best. These incentives after all are an enormous privilege and certainly not a right. For their part in the awards, DaimlerChrysler, Nedbank, Pick ’n Pay, Sun International, South African Airways, Telkom and Vodacom all earn my bouquets for the month.

Who says fundraising is dead? In my role as Chief Operating Officer of The Sports Trust I attended our annual fund raising bash – “The Circus of the Stars” staged at Vodaworld. Using the expertise of Boswell Wilkie Circus, many of South Africa's top sports stars rehearsed and played the role of circus performers, clowns and entertainers. Amongst others, Comrades Marathon legend Bruce Fordyce and former gladiator “Ice” Marion Hinde performed a high wire act, former world boxing heroes Brian Mitchell and Baby Jake Matlala staged the bout of the century whilst socialite Edith Venter conducted a great dog show. Sports Editor from “The Star” Kevin Mc Cullam, along with David O’ Sullivan of Radio 702 were amongst the troop of clowns that also included Kwena Moabelo from Kaya FM and soccer great Marks Maponyane. Great entertainment was provided by Heinz Winkler accompanied by TK and the evening was rounded off with an acknowledgement to Paralympic Javelin star Zanele Situ.

Around R500 000 was raised for The Sports Trust’s project fund. The performers need all take a bow, they give so unselfishly though all in all, I am sure they had a ball.

Well it’s that time of year again, I’m off to the “Nedbank Golf Challenge” – got that right! Have a safe and happy festive season.

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