sascoc strikes back

South Africa's Paralympics mana- gement team has expressed disappointment at criticism from "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius yesterday, saying he should have spoken to them first.

South Africa's Paralympics mana- gement team has expressed disappointment at criticism from "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius yesterday, saying he should have spoken to them first.

"When it comes to Mr Pistorius in particular, we have always supported him 100 percent throughout his career, and most notably during his quest to qualify for the Olympic Games," the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee said in a statement, yesterday.

Pistorius has been quoted complaining about poor organisation, ugly clothes for the opening ceremony, having to fly to Beijing economy class as well as the team kit not being ready on time.

"With regards to the complaints raised by Mr Pistorius, it is of grave concern to Sascoc and team management that he did not address his concerns with us."

Sascoc said the original team kit had been ready on August 14 already but that the athletics team did not like it.

"Sascoc duly noted this and immediately commissioned a new kit for the athletes, which the suppliers were unable to manufacture before the team's departure for Beijing. The new competition kit will arrive in Beijing this Thursday [today], in time for the Paralympics [which starts on Saturday]."

Turning to Pistorius' criticism of the "ugly" dress code at the opening ceremony, Sascoc said: "Personal taste obviously dictates what an athlete finds acceptable to wear or not. However, Sascoc has again noted the concerns of certain athletes regarding the dress code.

"As such, the South African team will vote on the matter in Beijing, giving athletes the opportunity to decide whether they would like to wear the official team dress or the attire designed for formal functions."

Pistorius also complained that team members had to walk 2km to buy drinks because their vending machine cards had not been activated.

"The matter of the drinks token, which is part of the welcome bag that South African athletes and all other national Paralympic teams receive, is the responsibility of the [Beijing organisers] and therefore entirely out of Sascoc's control.

"This matter was rectified late yesterday [Tuesday]," it said.

Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Alliance said the concerns raised by Pistorius could affect the athletes' performance negatively. It said Sascoc must be summoned before parliament's sports committee to explain their case.

"No athlete can make a serious contest for medals at the highest level when unnecessary challenges of this kind are thrown their way," said DA spokesman Donald Lee.

The Inkatha Freedom Party also questioned the conduct of the sports authorities.

"It is quite simply mind-boggling that our disabled athletes were squeezed into economy class airline seats on the long haul to China while officials stretched out in business class," said IFP spokesman Suzanne Vos. - Sapa

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