30 July 2012

OLYMPICS 2012: The South African journey from boycotts to victories!

AL2446__7526_The SAHA_Poster_Collection South Africa took off on a high note at the London 2012 Olympic Games with Cameron van der Burgh winning a gold medal in the 100m breaststroke final. It was SA's very first medal in the 2012 Olympics, an exciting start indeed for Team SA.

SAHA takes a brief look at the bittersweet South African journey in the world of sports.

During the apartheid regime, the segregational policies cut across all spheres of society, including sporting bodies which were not allowed to have racially integrated teams. As can be expected, this did not sit well with other liberal countries which were against apartheid laws and policies.

This culminated into sports boycotts in an effort to exert pressure on the apartheid government to abandon its segregational policies. In 1964, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) officially withdrew its invitation to South Africa for the Tokyo Olympics after it learned that Team SA would not be racially integrated. In 1968, the IOC indicated that it is prepared to readmit SA if assured that TEAM SA would be multiracial. This failed and the country was formally expelled from the IOC in 1970.

In 1977, the Commonwealth met in Gleneagles, Auchterarder, Scotland, where they unanimously agreed and signed the Gleneagles Agreement which called for sports boycotts as part of the international campaign against apartheid.

One of the most notable racial incidents by the apartheid government was when it refused to allow the English cricket team in 1968 and subsequently cancelled the tournament because England included the black South African-born cricketer, Basil D'Oliviera. This caused an outrage to all against apartheid which led SA to being isolated in international sports for about 25 years.

When negotiations to end apartheid took off, South Africa was then able to participate in the Olympics. The South African Sports Confederation and Olympics Committee was formed in 1991 and Team SA was part of the Spain 1992 Summer Olympics.

SAHA material relating to sports boycotts:

AL3273 The John Harris CollectionJohn Harris was the chairman of the South African Non-racial Olympic Committee, an executive member of the Liberal Party of South Africa (LPSA) as well as a member of the African Resistance Movement.

Basil D'Oliviera
Basil D'Oliviera, mentioned in the story, is one of the icons honoured in the Sunday Times Heritage Project.
Read more about his life as one of the sportsmen who felt the brunt of apartheid's segregational policies.