With just over a year to go before the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics begin, SASCOC announced its selection criteria for the various sports codes at a press conference at Olympic House on Wednesday. A total of 28 Olympic and 21 Paralympic sports will be contested in Rio. The process of arriving at an agreed upon selection system commenced as far back as 2011 when a working group, represented by all sectors of the SASCOC membership Olympic, Paralympic, Commonwealth, World Games and Winter sports – was tasked to provide recommendations for selection policies for 2013 to 2016.
The selection policy directive specified that there will be no continental qualification route but where only a continental route is applicable, additional riders would be added. However, 11 NFs (10 Olympic and 1 Paralympic) requested consideration of Continental qualification and to that effect two NFs have not yet signed the policies. Handball is the only sport that will not be attempting to qualify for RIO Olympics having also not qualified for the African Games.
SASCOC CEO, Tubby Reddy highlighted that SASCOC has not deviated from the International Federations and International Olympic Committee policies and qualification system other than not considering the continental slots: ‘Athletics and swimming do not have to attain two qualification standards as was the case in 2012. However measures will be put in place to ensure that athletes are not carrying any injuries and are fit for competition.’ SASCOC president Gideon Sam added that: ‘Athletes and coaches go through highs and lows in the run up to big games such as the Olympics Games. In setting criteria for selection, the idea is to help the athletes know where they stand with the Confederation and to prepare themselves adequately.’
SASCOC General Manager: High Performance, Ms Ezera Tshabangu in her presentation, indicated that the ongoing OPEX (Operation Excellence) programme had been reviewed. SASCOC continued with the OPEX and National Academy support programme monitoring meetings with athletes and coaches. The Olympic body met with all of the 71 athletes (26 Olympic; 32 Paralympic; two special support and nine National Academy Support Programme -NASP) except for five who were either travelling or at competitions.
The meetings were aimed at addressing preparation plans, to follow up from meetings held in February 2015 and to focus on the upcoming world championships and Rio 2016. Prior to these meetings, the Performance Consultant, Professor Frank Dick, evaluated the CVs of coaches. Over and above this, coaches had to complete a Coach Evaluation form, which was used in conjunction with the information provided on the CV to rate the coach.
Tshabangu highlighted that the OPEX athletes’ contracts for the period 1 April to 30 September 2015 had been finalised and sent to athletes, with only a few athletes’ still outstanding. Sam explained: ‘It is important for coaches and athletes to interact with National Federations and the Sports Confederations to understand the rationale behind how athletes remain on the OPEX programme and what is required to remain on this very important support programme. The members of the public through the media also take a keen interest in the information that we release from time to time on how the athletes are doing.’ The requests for funding for this financial year amount to around R28.6 million excluding requests for equipment and specialised medical support.
Allocations for the six-month period, 1 April–30 September 2015, were approved as follows: Olympic Programme, just over R7.8 million and Paralympic Programme around R4.5 million. The next assessment period will be at the end of September 2015, after most World Championships have been completed. It was noted that funding remains a challenge to meet the needs of all the athletes.
A special fund to the tune of R3 million has been set aside for specialised medical support. This is mainly for surgery and rehabilitation for athletes who are without medical aid. SASCOC will again be investigating a sponsored medical aid for athletes.
SASCOC in partnership with Sports and Recreation South Africa (SRSA), South African Local Government Association (SALGA), Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality, Sports Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA) and other stakeholders will be hosting an inaugural national conference this week. Reddy explained: ‘After noting districts and provinces’ serious challenges with access to facilities and better working relations with SALGA structures, SASCOC and SALGA signed a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2015 and subsequently agreed on hosting a joint national conference to address these fundamental issues that affect sport at grass roots level.’ The SASCOC and SALGA one and a half-day national conference to be held in Mangaung on 10-11 July 2015 will bring together, under one roof, all Municipalities and SASCOC members to discuss and devise workable plans on access to sports facilities, review of lease agreements, handover of new facilities to federations and NFs involvement in the construction of facilities.
Other important matters to be discussed in the conference will include: SRSA’s Facilities Plan on the provision of facilities in Rural Communities, a plan on auditing of sports facilities and a discussion on how SALGA should utilise the expertise of NFs to run its SALGA Games. The conference is due to address the following: Dictates of the National Sport and Recreation Plan; roles and responsibilities of both SASCOC and SALGA as per the Memorandum of Understanding, current challenges on sports development, common priority areas as per mandates of each organisation, and an action plan with clear timelines. Sam added that: ‘As the governing body for sport our role is to ensure that all our stakeholders get and understand the messages that we send out to them. The SASCOC and SALGA conference is an attempt to bring role players in sport together to see whether we are on top of the decisions we took around so many aspects on sport contained in our National Sport and Recreation Plan.’
Approximately 500 delegates are expected to convene at this conference.
Photo credit: WESSEL OOSTHUIZEN / SASPA