Media launch of the 43rd Laingsburg Karoo Ultra-marathon | Western Cape Government

Speeches

Media launch of the 43rd Laingsburg Karoo Ultra-marathon

20 June 2013

Programme Director
The mayor of Laingsburg Municipality, Alderman Wilhelm Theron
The municipal manager of Laingsburg Municipality and race director, Mr Pietie Williams
The chairperson of Laingsburg Athletics Club
Former South African Athletics champion, business entrepreneur and the face of the 2013 Laingsburg Karoo Ultra-marathon, Ms Zola Budd
Sponsors
Colleagues
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning and thank you for inviting me to be part of the media launch of the 43rd Laingsburg Karoo Ultra-marathon which is a seeding event for the Comrades, but at the same time described by many a athlete as an unique event.  

It is an event which is intertwined with the history of Laingsburg, its beautiful landscape, its people and yes, it is even reflected in the tragedy of the Laingsburg Floods which devastated the town on 25 January 1981.

This ultra-marathon however bears testimony to the grit of the people of Laingsburg…. “Karoomense met murg in hul bene”.  With the same tenacity, hard work, discipline and “never say die” attitude of the ultra-marathon athlete, the people of Laingsburg rebuilt their town from the devastation of the floods to the proud town that is it now.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Karoo Ultra-marathon has become an example of how a sporting event can firstly, promote a region and secondly, contribute to local economic development.

The immense success of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa had in fact more to do with the platform that it provided to promote Cape Town and the Western Cape, than the successes, or not,  of Bafana Bafana on the football field. So too, the Laingsburg Karoo Ultra-marathon can and must play the role of marketing Laingsburg and its unique tourism offerings.

As I said earlier, major events can contribute to local economic development. The Pick and Pay Cape Argus Cycle Tour for example contributes approximately R500 million towards the GDP of the Western Cape.  The Two Oceans Marathon also makes a significant contribution.  The Laingsburg Karoo Ultra-marathon contributes to the economy of Laingsburg and there is no doubt that the locals are eager to find ways to increase this contribution. We must find ways of enabling this to happen. Sponsors such as Price Waterhouse Coopers and Newton certainly play a critical role by ensuring that the organisers are able to position the marathon in such a way that delivers benefits beyond the mere participation. Real hard economic opportunities must be created and realized.

Programme Director, the life-blood of any sport is the athlete. The men and women who dedicate themselves and develop their athletic prowess through diligence and discipline enthral us with their ability and inspire us with their achievements.  

Unfortunately, this fundamental element of all sport, the athlete’s participation in sporting events, is more and more being threatened by what happens in the boardroom. As a politician I often say that there is more politics in sport than politics in politics.  It also saddens me when boardroom politics spills over into court cases such as the current legal wrangle regarding Athletics SA and more recently, the Pick ‘n Pay Cape Argus Cycle Tour. It pains me when one reads about threats and counter-threats that could negatively impact on the individual runner or cyclist. 

To avoid such disputes, the Western Cape Government established a Western Cape Sport Arbitration and Mediation Forum. Later today I will meet the members, some of them senior legal practitioners, and all of them experienced administrators with considerable experience in dispute, conciliation and mediation matters. Their task is to provide a dispute resolution mechanism for sport in the Western Cape, to avoid the need for sport matters to be resolved in a court of law. Unfortunately the impasse involving Cycling SA and the Pedal Power Association, as well the one at Athletics SA, fall beyond the provincial ambit. However, given the impact of these disputes and its possible effect on sportsmen and sportswomen in the Western Cape, we should extend the offer to mediate if necessary. I am confident that the Western Cape Sport Dispute Resolution forum has the necessary skills and could mediate quite effectively, if required.

In conclusion, Programme Director, I wish the organizers, under the leadership of the race director, Mr Pietie Williams, everything of the best as they prepare for the 43rd Laingsburg Karoo Ultra-marathon.

As indicated, the Laingsburg Karoo Ultra-marathon is much more than a race. It is a laboratory for cultural warmth. The golden thread of broad community involvement and sport development is woven through it and it serves as a platform to share the uniqueness of Laingsburg with everyone,

To Ms Zola Budd, thank you for being such a role model. In your heyday you grabbed the imagination of thousands of ordinary South Africans. Quietly and with great humility you illustrated the power of sport to inspire and unite this nation. Thank you for your example, for inspiring us and reinforcing the belief that with hard work, discipline and dedication anything is possible. Thank you once again for showing the leadership by associating your name and your brand with the Laingsburg Karoo Ultra-marathon. Athletics provided the platform for you to learn and earn. Now you return to plough back.

I thank you.

Media Enquiries: 

Daniel Johnson
Spokesperson for the Minister
Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport
Tel: 021 483 3261
E-mail: Daniel.Johnson@westerncape.gov.za