Sport, building a nation since 1995

SAM MUKWAMU

There are very few things that possess the ability to bring people with different backgrounds together like sports. It is this ability to bring people together that has made sports one of the most effective tools in nation building. Sport creates the perfect environment for people to come together for a common goal and for a country as diverse as South Africa sport has promoted social cohesion, as well as national pride.

 In 1994, South Africa was in need of some sort of unity after years of segregation. The 1995 Rugby World Cup and 1996 African Cup of Nations were seen as being potentially useful for nation building by then president Nelson Mandela, and they became two defining events in South African history. After being banned from competing in these and other sports, due to international sporting sanctions, South Africa hosted and won both tournaments, while showing the rest of the world that it was a country that was ready to move on from the oppressive Apartheid regime and make an effective contribution to the global community. Regardless of race, South Africans showed support for their national teams, in stadiums and in their homes.

The use of the football and rugby tournaments is quite significant. Football and rugby were seen as black and white sports, respectively. Both tournaments allowed for diversity, which would have not been seen in stadiums prior to 1994. Since the early post-Apartheid years, South Africa also hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, arguably one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Apart from nation building, the hosting of these tournaments also contributed to the economy, with an increase in tourism and employment opportunities.

Over the years, swimming and athletics have been sports that have contributed to national pride. Swimmers such as Natalie du Toit, Roland Schoeman, and more recently Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh, are South African swimmers that excelled in the sport, and have won gold medals at the Olympic, and Paralympic games. Controversial figure Oscar Pistorius dominated Paralympic sprints, with six golds, one bronze, and a silver.

South African athletics looks to have a bright future with athletes such as Caster Semenya and Wayde van Niekerk excelling at the Olympic and World Championships. South Africans can look forward to the future success of athletes such as Luvo Manyonga, Akani Simbine and Thando helping contribute to a more diverse South Africa through sport.

 

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