Speech by Mr Gert C Oosthuizen MP, Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation South Africa during the Disability Bowls South Africa opening ceremony, Wingate Park Country Club
3 May 2011
President of Disability Bowls SA, Mr Brian Sneag
Executive Members of Disability Bowls SA
Ladies and gentlemen
May I take this opportunity of welcoming our international guests and competitors to our wonderful country, South Africa.
I also want to acknowledge and welcome the most important people here today – the more than 120 athletes of the 10 teams, playing singles and pairs in their own classification group, who have come to South Africa from all parts of the World to compete in the IBD World Championships for the Disabled.
Many of you will be aware of the Constitution that we have in South Africa, regarded by many as the most progressive in the world. Here we have ensured that we provide the legislative framework for an inclusive society which respects the rights of all citizens.
In the lead up to our first democratic elections and the drafting of the Constitution, the disability rights movement in the country lobbied the legislators, including myself, effectively to ensure that the rights of disabled persons were not only protected but actively promoted. In fact, we are committed to ensuring that persons with disabilities are able to take their rightful place in society.
Further, in order to ensure that people with disabilities contribute to the economy – and to be able to continue to play sport and keep physically active – we have ensured that every company in the private sector and the public sector applies the requirements of the
Employment Equity Act in employing disabled persons as at least 2% of its payroll.
This has been our commitment as Government – and it is an ongoing commitment as it remains a work in progress. As Benjamin Franklin, a former US president said: "Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning".
We also believe that sport is part of our armoury of preventative health.
Participating in physical activity on a regular basis helps to keep various life-style diseases like diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiac problems at bay.
There is a large drop-off of people participating in sport not only for competition purposes but also for leisure and, importantly, for keeping fit.
In this country, called the Rainbow Nation, we want to see continued improvement, achievement and success measured not only by medals in the Paralympics and Deaflympic Games but also in the successful implementation of the social inclusion and nation-building agenda of our nation.
This obviously has implications in the context of what we see here today.
Many sports programmes, to all intents and purposes, are run by technical officials from the so-called “able-bodied” federations and perhaps, in order to achieve greater efficiency, these sports should be run as part of the able-bodied national championships or in parallel.
Beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s, work began within several countries and organizations to include athletes with disabilities in the able-bodied sport system.
This included adding events for athletes with disabilities to major games such as the Olympic Games and the Commonwealth Games, and the integration of these athletes into able-bodied sports organizations. Since 1984, the Olympics have included exhibition events for Paralympics athletes.
At the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games they were included as full members of their national teams, making these the first fully inclusive international multi-sport games. This policy has continued with the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, where Canadian Chantal Petitclerc became the first athlete with a disability to carry her country's flag in the Opening Ceremonies of an integrated games.
The sport of Bowls can be played by almost anyone, with or without a disability. It can be played by men, women and children alike.
Age doesn't matter; it is a sport of skill not strength.
We look forward to the day when the national federations cater for the needs of both athletes with and without disabilities; when athletes are regarded first and foremost as athletes; where we have an equitable approach to disability in the context of sport.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, decisions of the International Paralympics Committee and the integrated approach to presenting both the Olympic and Paralympics Games bear testament to the international direction we are taking in the sports movement. It is a direction that we as Government and the Ministry of Sport and Recreation support fully.
In recent months, even a sport such as wheelchair rugby become an international sports federation in its own right and other sports such as goal ball, Bocce and Cerebral Palsy soccer are moving to do the same in the next few years.
I commend the thousands of volunteers who go out rain and sunshine each weekend, sometimes evenings during the week,
to make sure that sport and recreation take place in all parts of our country. We need more of you – as many of you too will feel.
In 2007 in Sydney Australia, the first World Championships under the new flag of 'International Bowls for the Disabled' (IBD) was held. I believe South Africa at these Championships will be defending their title as the winners of the inaugural event in 2007.
I trust that we have just as successful a team assembled here today. Good luck South Africa. You performed away from home and we certainly hope that it will be home ground advantage to you.
I also want to pay tribute to the athletes here today, who have overcome many barriers to be here and who have their competitors to overcome over the next few days.
I trust that you will be competing in the spirit of playing fair and playing true, that you will compete as adversaries and as friends because it is this friendship which starts here at these Championships that is important as you move through life.
I trust that you have planned for some spare time to enjoy some of the sights, sounds and experiences of South Africa – and the cuisine which I guarantee you will remember!
I call on you, using the words of Mahatma Gandhi to “be the change you want to see in the world”.
Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Ministry of Sport and Recreation, I hereby take this opportunity to wish you everything of the very best for this IBD World Championship, and trust that you will compete with heart and soul. I declare this Championship officially open.
I thank you.
Issued by: Sport and Recreation South Africa
3 May 2011
[ Top ]