In 2000, on a visit to Monaco, Nelson Mandela spoke the following words, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all kinds of discrimination.” 2013 saw the first Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day with two international soccer matches and one international rugby match all played at the same stadium on the same day, followed by a concert. This year’s event, which was held on 22nd November 2014, took on a different twist.
WALKING, RUNNING, CYCLING FOLLOWED BY A CONCERT
The ‘Unite’ campaign’s ethos is to promote social cohesion and nation building through sport, as Nelson Mandela himself would have done. Mandela spoke of his passion for running and boxing in his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” realising in his youth that sport could have a unifying effect on a country. He gave boxing as an example, “Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, colour and wealth are irrelevant.” So, on 22nd November, in Madiba’s honour, cyclists, both professional and amateur, from around the country donned their reflective cycling vests and set off from Loftus Versveld, home of the Blue Bulls, for a 67 km cycle race, representing the 67 years that Madiba spent fighting for freedom in South Africa. The finish line was at the Union Building, the official seat of the South African government in Pretoria. There were three separate run/walk races, all of which began and finished at the Union Building. For the hardy runners there was a 27 km run. For those not so energetic there was a 9.4 km run and walk and even the kids got a chance to put on their reflective running vests to walk the 5 km race. There were 25,000 entrants and even though this is an event for charity, over R2 million was handed out in prize money.
Cycling and running greats, stage, screen (big and little) and music stars and even politicians, entered these races to show their support of Madiba and what he stood for. The Minister for Sport, Fikile Mbalula, has become a fitness fanatic over the years and wanted to use this event to try and promote a healthy South Africa. He has said that not enough South Africans see the importance of exercise. Madiba exercised every day and saw this as not only as a way to fitness but as a way to think and clear his head. When the races were over there was a cultural extravaganza showcasing 67 artists and craftsmen and women who all came together to remember Madiba. A relative feast was laid out for all the concert goers to enjoy, while listening and dancing the night away.