South Africa from about 1999 onwards — when the afterglow of the Mandela years began to fade from our collective subconscious — has slowly turned into a place where hope is abundant, as long as you know where to find it. Otherwise our media culture does a sterling job of ensuring we’re bogged down by all the bad news shoved down our throats.
That’s why sport holds a special place in many hearts. Yes, you have administrative bungles such as Safa’s search for top executives, Saru making a mess regarding Super 15 inclusion, and not so long ago, the former chief executive of Cricket South Africa accepting money he didn’t declare. But on the whole sport takes us away from the mundane cynicism South Africans have to cloak themselves in much of the time.
Events such as the 1995 Rugby World Cup, 1996 African Cup of Nations, 2003 Cricket World Cup, and especially the 2010 Soccer World Cup, remind us that while we are diverse it’s on the sports field that South Africans every once in a while actually act as one country.
Gauteng’s motto is unity in strength. And if that is indeed true the strength we draw from each other is fractured at many points with it not taking much to drive a wedge into those cracks. Such is the nature of diversity.
But, and with much joy, the Olympic Games in London has begun and with it a chance to hop on the distraction train and enjoy the exploits of the finest athletes on earth who attempt to do the impossible. Usain Bolt blew our minds in Beijing, Michael Phelps burnt through record books and China became the new force in Olympic sport by topping the medals table in 2008.
But as Bolt (patchy form), Phelps (patchy marijuana use), and China (patchy human-rights record) have proven, while they have pushed the boundaries, human imperfection pervades their existence.
So, while poverty, corruption, and political immaturity won’t magically disappear in SA over the next two weeks, it sure will be nice to not have it engulf the airwaves as voraciously as it normally does. We all need a break from reality now and then. Surely?
The 2012 Summer Olympic Games are here.