Sons of the soil fly SA flag high in London
DURING the weekend, after South Africa and the world celebrated the birthday of our international icon, Tata Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela, gongs and drums reverberated in Wall Street and Trafalgar Square welcoming Team South Africa to the United Kingdom for the 2012 London Olympics.
At the same time flags and banners were raised high and hoisted on the peaks of both Ben Nevis and Ben McDheli mountains of Scotland to indicate the heroic presence of our sons of the soil. South Africa House in London, opposite Trafalgar Square, was full of joy and ululations. This will stop only when Caster Semenya finally hoists the national flag on the Mandela Statue at Mandela Square in London and our coat of arms is raised confidently onto the two pillars of the British military base at Andover at the end of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The British weather was shaken and paved the way for the African blue sky to take over. This was witnessed in both cricket and golf, where the Madiba magic resonated once more on British soil as Ernie Else won his second British Open Championship, showing his majestic character.
These were greetings that welcomed Team SA in a foreign land; an extraordinary welcome of a winning nation's spirit.
On the same British soil, Hashim "Mighty Hash" Amla broke a record at The Oval with a triple century in making 311 not out, while Graeme Smith bagged a milestone century in his 100th career test as the Proteas took overall control of the first test against England on the same weekend.
Before the game, I presented Graeme with a South African flag on the occasion of this milestone. The message was loud and clear to him: "Defend the South African flag!"
It was also on the same British soil that one of our own, three-time cricketer of the year Mark Boucher, suffered an eye injury during a warm-up match against Somerset at Taunton, when he was struck by a ball. However, his doctor here at home announced that Mark was in a stable condition and that he can see movement. The doctor urged the nation to be patient because Boucher's future looks promising. We wish him a speedy recovery.
On July 18, when hosting the send-off banquet for all our Olympians and Paralympians, we reminded them that their send-off was a "twin honour and was blessed" because it coincided with Nelson Mandela's birthday and must serve as further motivation for the team to perform for Tata Madiba. All our athletes are therefore blessed with Madiba magic.
Our Olympians must emulate the winning spirit displayed by Ernie Els and the Proteas and go out there filled with confidence that South Africa is indeed a winning nation.
This also goes for Banyana Banyana in their clash with Sweden, fourth-ranked in the world, at the City of Coventry Stadium this evening.
- Fikile Mbalula is Minister of Sport and Recreation