Cycling South Africa on 2012 Olympic Games preparations and on development plans

Sports, Arts and Culture

09 May 2012
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Cycling SA briefed the Committee on its preparations for the 2012 London Olympics, and also covered its transformation and development plans.
Members were given an insight into the various cycling disciplines, as well as a breakdown of athletes who would be representing South Africa in the various cycling disciplines. The major challenge faced by Cycling SA was funding. Members were nevertheless impressed by the work that Cycling SA was doing, even though it had funding constraints. Related to the issue of funding was the poor support that South African athletes were receiving, given that the 2012 London Olympics was just months away. Facilities for training were also lacking.
Transformation and development in sport was high on the Committee’s list of priorities and Members urged Cycling SA to step up their efforts in this regard. From the statistics presented, it was clear that cycling in SA was pretty much a white and male dominated sport, which Cycling SA was committed to change. Members were convinced that if cycling were taken to the masses at grassroots level and development plans were intensified, transformation would follow.
Securing additional sponsors would assist Cycling SA to perform even better than it currently was. The Committee also agreed to look into why the SRSA had cut funding to sports programmes, not only cycling. The funding to two camps hosted by Cycling SA had been cut in February 2012 without explanation.

Meeting report

Cycling South Africa briefing
The delegation consisted of Mr William Newman, President, Mr Elton Davids, Head of Transformation and Development, Mr Ernst van Dyk, Riders’ Representative and Paralympian, and Mr Jeroen Swart, HP Partner (SSISSA).
Mr Newman undertook the first part of the briefing which dealt with preparation plans for the 2012 Olympics. On the paralympian side, four men and two women’s spots had been confirmed.  One spot had been qualified for the men’s road race. It was hoped that three spots would be qualified for the women’s road team.
On the track side, Bernard Esterhuizen had qualified for the sprint event but the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee’s (SASCOC’s) approval was being awaited.
In mountain biking (MTB), two men’s spots had been qualified, with Burry Stander’s spot being confirmed. On the BMX side of things it was hoped to qualify at least one male and one female spot. Members were given a statistical breakdown of successes in the various disciplines. For example, in road races there were stage and tour wins, with finishes in the top ten.
He continued by highlighting challenges which Cycling SA had to contend with. There was a lack of funding for athletes to compete internationally and most athletes were self-funded. There was also a lack of facilities to prepare. For example, in the Western Cape the only international standard velodrome in Bellville was shared amongst other “non-sporting” organisations and was now unavailable due to an imminent commercial development. The absence of African continental championships in some disciplines forced riders to qualify via the most difficult world cup and world championship routes. The timing of the Operation Excellence Support Programme (OPEX) was also a problem. Support was needed from day one of a four-year Olympic cycle.
The Committee was also given insight into planning that was taking place for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. There were six riders on the SASCOC Academy Programme aiming to participate in Rio. There were detailed preparation plans in place for all disciplines. Cycling SA would motivate for more deserving riders for SASCOC Academy and OPEX Programmes.  Some of the actions taken by Cycling SA were to generate funding for high performance support. It intended to work with Sports and Recreation SA (SRSA) to benefit from international bilateral agreements. There was furthermore a need to ensure that resources were available to implement preparation plans.

Discussion
Mr M Dikgacwi (ANC) noted that the Lottery Report had stated that for 2010/11, Cycling SA had been allocated R25m. He referred to the Zone 6 games and asked if cycling was one of the games. He asked for a breakdown of race in terms of the popularity of the sport. How broad were Cycling SA’s efforts in talent identification.

Mr Newman confirmed that the Lotto Grant to Cycling SA was R25m. The amount had to be used to cover all the cycling disciplines as well international preparation costs, equipment and administration. The amount might seem huge but it was not. Cycling SA needed additional funding.
 
He said that the Zone 6 Games did not include cycling. Development in cycling needed to take place across Africa. Road cycling was at present the biggest discipline.  Cycling SA was represented across nine provinces.

Mr T Lee (DA) said he understood that it was difficult to obtain sponsorships. He asked who sponsored Cycling SA and to what extent. He noted that the last time Cycling SA had appeared before the Committee,  Members had been informed that bicycles had been sent to various regional rural areas for distribution amongst the locals. When Cycling SA had followed up on the programme, bicycles had been found to be in storage and rusting. How far was the investigation into the issue? Referring to the building of velodromes, he asked how many were to be built and what would the cost be.

Mr G MacKenzie (DA) recognised that there was a lack of funding and transformation in the sport. He also asked where the velodromes were to be built and how were they going to be managed at grassroots level.  Why was OPEX support received only in year four and not year one?  Had Cycling SA discussed the issue with SASCOC and the Lotto Board?  Of the six academy riders, how many were development riders and what were their age groups.

Mr Van Dyk stated that London would be his sixth Olympic Games. When it came to preparation, very few athletes received OPEX support.  Contracts were expected to expire after September 2012. Other countries provided support to athletes 6-12 months after the Olympic Games. This was not the case in SA.  After the Olympic Games, athletes were left out in the cold. This meant that for a whole year, athletes had no support. Athletes in SA needed OPEX support. The vision of Cycling SA was to become less dependent on OPEX support and the Lotto Board. Cycling SA had for the last six months received no funding support from the Lotto Board, yet it was such a crucial time near to the London Olympics. He noted that in his 25 years of being an athlete, he had received no support from SA.  Support had either come from the USA or Europe. Being an athlete was a lifetime commitment and support was needed. Athletes had daily needs, just as the average person -- and the public wondered why athletes in SA did not perform.

Mr Swart noted that Burry Stander, the World Cup silver medallist mountain biker, had up until last year trained himself. He was currently ranked third in the world. He was a strong contender for gold at the London Olympic Games. Sifiso Nhlapo, an Olympic silver medallist, had suffered a knee injury and for six months did not compete, so SASCOC had cut OPEX support for him. He felt it was uncalled for, especially in an Olympic year. It was obscene that a medal contender was not being funded because he had sustained an injury.

Ms G Sindani (ANC) said she had witnessed a cycling race at White River in the Mpumalanga Province and had noticed that all the participants had been white. How did Cycling SA identify talent? What were Cycling SA’s efforts in rural areas? How far reaching were efforts regarding mixed cyclists. She noted that gender equity in the sport was an issue. Even the delegation from Cycling SA was completely male. She referred to the challenge highlighted that there was an absence of African continental championships in some disciplines, but stated that the nurturing of champions should start in SA.

Ms M Dube (ANC) asked how Cycling SA intended to reach disadvantaged and rural people. Was it a challenge or was it an oversight on the part of Cycling SA?  Who was mentoring children cycling in townships? Given the challenges identified by Cycling SA, what solutions had Cycling SA come up with? She pointed out that at the Atteridgeville Stadium the cycling track had been demolished. What was being done to replace it? She also referred to the fact that the delegation lacked a female component.

Mr Newman responded that his presentation covered only the preparations for the 2012 London Olympics. A second presentation would deal with the issues raised by members, such as development.

The Chairperson asked why corporate companies were not sponsoring Cycling SA.

Mr Newman responded that it was a good question. Nevertheless, the idea was to make Cycling SA self- sufficient. Cycling SA would do its utmost to get sponsors on board.

Mr Lee reiterated earlier comments about bicycles which had been sent to rural areas ending up in storage and rusting away.

Mr Davids stated that the project was a Department of Transport initiative. Bicycles had given out in rural areas as a means of transport. However no support had been given after the bicycles were given out, so when they broke there was nobody to repair them. People in rural areas should be empowered. Persons could be taught to fix bikes and hence employment could be created.

Mr MacKenzie stated that sport in SA was flawed. Intervention was needed as talent was out there.  He said that it was time for the Minister of Sport to host an indaba for all stakeholders which included corporates, provinces and even local government to come together to identify what was needed in sport. 

Mr Lee asked why Mr Van Dyk was getting financial support from overseas when South African Airways was sponsoring an Argentinian golfer. Charity started at home. Local athletes should be supported.

Mr Elton Davids presented the second part of the briefing, which covered transformation and development. Cycling SA had more or less 16 000 members, of which only 25% were female.  The racial split was 60% white and 40% black.
It had to be kept in mind that cycling was an expensive sport. Most cycling events were held on Sundays and it was expensive to host events. A huge part of the cost was traffic department assistance. In Cape Town, a cycle event entry fee would be around R80 whereas in Gauteng it would be R200. The cost of an event was borne by the riders themselves. Nationally there were 347 cycling clubs. Mmembers were given a breakdown of figures per province. The Committee was also provided with information about where BMX tracks were specifically located within Kwazulu-Natal, Gauteng and the Western Cape Provinces.
He emphasised that Cycling SA wished to lead the way to lobby SASCOC for long-term participant development. Each child had to be coached individually.  The sale of the Bellville Velodrome Cycling Track was mentioned again, as it was a loss to cycling. There were, however, plans to revamp the Vygieskraal Sports Ground for cycling, but SRSA lacked the funds to do so. On mountain biking (MTB) the restaurant group Spur was sponsoring an interschool national series. There was also a provincial series. The way forward for Cycling SA was to focus on schools, promoting cycling as an extramural sport. Mentorship for coaches and riders would be encouraged. There were also women-centred events. For example, on 19 May a female only-race would be held in Cape Town. Over 300 entries had been received.  

Discussion
Ms Sindani said that considering the 60/40 split of whites and blacks in the sport, it looked as though cost was a big factor in cycling. The figures reflected a perception that whites had money and blacks did not. The question arose as to how one assisted previously disadvantaged persons. She suggested that perhaps Cycling SA could set aside some of its own funds to assist youngsters with talent. Imbalances needed to be corrected. Having only 25% female representation in cycling was not good enough. The figure should be 50%.

Mr Swart agreed that cycling was an expensive sport and hence people had difficulties in acquiring equipment. Another issue was to be able to ride in peace in a safe environment, which was difficult, especially in townships. Safety on roads was even an issue. Mountain biking also had safety issues, especially for women who could be assaulted, robbed or raped. The most successful component was BMX tracks. The building of BMX tracks was the most cost effective. Popularising of cycling would take time. Some males even had issues with the way cycling clothes looked.

Mr M Rabotapi (DA) appreciated the efforts of Cycling SA.

Mr Dikgacwi stated that the 40% black representation was too broad.  It had to be broken down into all those races which fell under black. He also asked for information on where cycling clubs were located. Dates of tournaments should also be provided.
The Minister had launched a school sport programme. What was Cycling SA’s involvement in it? He noted that provincial governments also received funding from national government. Had Cycling SA spoken to provinces about its funding challenges?

Mr Newman said that Cycling SA did engage at the highest level on school sports. Cycling SA was aware of the Department’s plans on school sports.
Mr Davids agreed to provide information to the Committee on where cycling clubs were located.

Mr MacKenzie appreciated the work done by Cycling SA and urged them to keep up the good work.

Mr Lee referred to the promotion of cycling at schools and said that it depended on the commitment of teachers as well. He did not comprehend why the Bellville Velodrome Stadium needed to be demolished. Greater detail over the issue was needed in order for Members to look into the matter. How much time and money would it take to rebuild such a facility? He was a bit perturbed by the news.

Mr Davids stated that there was an eight-year plan to have an indoor track. The City of Cape Town did not have the funds to upgrade the Vygieskraal Sports Ground in Athlone. The only other track in the Western Cape was in Paarl, but it was too far away. The City of Cape Town still needed to get back to Cycling SA over the issue.

The Chairperson could not understand why transformation in sport was so slow, yet SA was a sport loving country. He felt that Cycling SA was doing well compared to other sporting codes.

Mr Newman agreed that a lack of funding was not an excuse for why transformation was so slow. Cycling SA would do its best to transform the sport.

Mr Swart noted that on the issue of transformation and development, Cycling SA had for the 2011 financial year received funding to run two cycling camps. The camps were the only opportunity where medical screening of athletes could take place. Nutrition and psychology could also be looked at. Improvement on performance of athletes could also be checked. The funding to run the camps had been cut in February 2012. He noted that the Director General of Sport had cut the funding based on what the Minister had said at the Sports Indaba.  Funding for all sports had been cut, not only for cycling. Support to all athletes had thus came to an abrupt end and no explanation had been given. The camps had been a success and were well run and funded. He suggested that perhaps the Committee could look into the issue.

The Chairperson stated that unfortunately there was no SRSA representative present in the meeting from whom an answer could be elicited. Members of the Committee could perhaps pose a question to the Minister to obtain a response. Cycling SA was doing well and he hoped that the organisation secured sponsors and hopefully would make inroads into rural areas. The Committee would try its best to get answers as to why funding to sports programmes had been stopped.

Mr Lee asked whether it was Lotto funding or SRSA funding.

Mr Swart responded that it was SRSA funding that had been cut. Up until now no explanation had been given.

Ms Sindani asked what Cycling SA’s relationship with anti-doping agencies was.

Mr Newman said that Cycling SA had a good relationship with the SA Institute for Drug Free Sport. The Institute had been invited to Cycling SA camps to address youngsters.

Mr Swart explained that the tests done at camps were medical and physiological tests. The SA Institute for Drug Free Sport tested athlete’s urine for drugs.

Ms Sindani asked how Cycling SA kept cyclists free from drugs.

Mr Swart said that the SA Institute for Drug Free Sport had a drug testing programme. Cycling SA had its own education programmes at camps.

Mr Newman hoped that cycling would secure at least one medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee needed to interact with Cycling SA more than once a year. He wished Cycling SA all the best for the 2012 London Olympics and towards securing greater sponsorship. Sport in SA in general had a lack of leadership. Development and transformation were issues of importance to the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.

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