South African Sports Awards 2014
I heard about the Sports Awards (SASA) way before I ever attended the event. The sports awards in my opinion has always been clouded in negativity especially around cost and selection criteria.
It was thus important in my mind that I attended the awards last night so that I could go and see for myself just how bad the situation really is.
Minister Fikile Mbalula has been at the crease for a few years now and has from the start stated his legacy would be transformation. I remember Fikile from the youth and regard him as a show-politician rather than an academic politician. He is versatile in any of the departments because he is a politician rather than a specialist. Lastly, in understanding the man one needs to understand that he is a fore-front politician. These politician love the lime light, always involve themselves in the high profiled meetings and usually never use a spokesperson as they are media mad. If you expect policies and technical analysis from this Minister than you will always judge him low. If you judge the man on the amount of times he communicates on his portfolio or is seen at the glitz and glamour events you will judge him high. It is no secret that he has been given the name Minister Razzmataz but it is also no secret that he enjoys the name.
The Sports Awards is a novel idea in principle and one that should be embraced if the main objective is to recognize our sports heroes and to thank all sportsmen/women for the valuable contribution they make in keeping South-Africans passionate and enthused around the various sporting codes.
PLEASE SEE THE END for my witness account.
I went to the awards wanting to hate it and find fault with everything because I felt that the mechanism to this event was flawed. Knowing the characters in the story and the history I was sure that things would be visibly wrong in all facets of the awards. However I was certain to the core that we need to recognise our coaches, teams, sportsmen and support staff and as Government we need to thank them for the work they do on behalf of our Country.
It is hard to cost how much the awards really cost because we can never get a straight and basic answer. If you take television rights, cellphone subscription and voting lines, prizes, venues and catering. Apparently the whole package could be costed at R71m according to representation made at our committee. However Government themselves are in for apparently around R6,5m of this. This is not from any written documentation but only verbal confirmation and therefore these figures are subject to further questioning.
I would suggest that if the Country was financially stable; our sports teams were excelling; Govt contribution to the actual awards was minimal and Government had delivered to Sports and Recreation on a grass-roots level then we would all have something to celebrate and the celebrations should then be parallel to the outcomes.
The danger of trying to host a world-class event on an opulant level, is that you have to keep that pace throughout. The minute you drop the ball any step of the way, you run the risk of that becoming the focus of the evening and the rest falling a long second to it.
This night was no different. SASA was trying to throw it all into a world-class performance and put on a world-class show but they could not move away from glimpses of casualness that plagued the production through out.
Sportsmen are competitive by their nature and would love to throw themselves in contention but would want to know the rules for competing. Sometimes it seems the most obvious of our sportsmen do not stand a chance and then some name is thrown in from out of nowhere in their place. This could give rise to such an event being seen as a mere event on a calendar rather than the ultimate recognition event.
In trying to build an all-star event you also need to work out how many artists and MCs you will require and to ensure that they fill the gaps in the production and are not in actual fact that focus of the event. It seemed during the broadcast we were treated to world-class entertainment and then in the break one of the comedians were brought in and briefed to keep the audience going in Zulu. Perfectly acceptable but a gamble nonetheless.
The Minister was the only one who really looked at home on stage and seemed to do a lot of damage control in many instances and I would not be surprised if a few choice harsh words were shared after the production at some of the people responsible for causing some of these “casual” moments.
The room seemed to be balanced between politicians and sportsmen. I would have thought a night like this would be all about the sportsmen and sponsors with only a handful of politicians. If it was an empty seats issue then I am certain there are many sports teams on school and varsity level that would love to be a part of such a production.
In terms of the prizes and categories, it was innovative to include the media as recipients of awards – you silence them in critique st the very least. However I think the sports awards is vastly exclusive. This is a challenge considering the amount of sporting codes; various criteria for success and being able to host all the federations.
In my opinion the sports awards should be a tournament on its own. Each federation to identify their heroes via their own means and to have an awards evening of their own supported by politicians and sponsors. The culmination of all these winners could be the big production known as the Sports Awards and the winners should not be limited to those recognised and awarded but also through adopting a project annually over and above the SRSA projects in a way which allows Government to not spend as much on such an event but to maximize on the returns of such an event. If you want to make the event world class and professional, by all means, make it TV perfect.
In my summation I can sum up my own belief in the way forward for SASA15 – LESS IS MORE…
MY WITNESS ACCOUNT:
I arrived at the event at around 6pm. It was advertised 5pm for 5:30pm but I knew from experience that this usually meant another hour onto the clock would suffice. Signage was limited and I just followed a group of people to the first floor eventhough the one sign I did see stated the event was on the 5th floor.
On the first floor I was immediately picked up by one of the assistants of Sports and Recreation SA who was able to give me my arm band and escort me through to the VIP holding area away from the cocktail function. I usually hate the holding area because it is equivalent to being stuck in a hotel room while everyone is at the party. However usually there are other people in your hotel room and unless there is a strong host you are left to create your own atmosphere. I had President Gideon Sam and three of his guests from Africa. After a while I suggested to them that I would be going to the cocktail function as I wanted to see the action. Two buffet tables and some trays being walked around the foyer formed the foundation for which hundreds of sportsmen, businessmen and politicians were gathered. A background band played comfortable music and the atmosphere seemed comfortable.
At around 7:15pm I returned to the holding area whereby the Minister, his deputy, the Director General and various other Ministers and deputies were now present. After warm and friendly greetings by all we were briefed and then taken to the cocktail area for speeches. It seemed that although they prepared us in the briefing for this, they were unprepared for the amount of dignitaries on the floor. A scurry for chairs and placement took place with people left wondering where and how they should sit. The speeches started but I think the only people who could hear, because of the background crowd noises of those not interested in the speeches, were up to a few rows back. We were welcomed by SASCOC and SRSA and then the President of the Lotto board and then the deputy Minister.
The MC then announced the order in which everyone should proceed to the venue. However I found when walking up to the 5th floor it was in chaos anyway. Besides utilizing an arm band system and block,row,seat number ticket, people still managed to get lost once inside the venue.
Due to the live broadcast, SABC took over the production and things seemed to work like clock work. Around me, I noticed the name of a few Ministers and deputies that clearly were invited but not present . The four MC got on stage and away we went into a show that went into set cycles of stage act; singer; announcement of hosts to introduce the nominees and then a video of the nominees and then the announcing of the winner and then an acceptance speech of the winner. In between the commercial breaks we were entertained by a comedian that mainly spoke Zulu and sometimes was kicked off mid way through his set for time management.
The Minister gave a speech, and Minister Jeff Radebe represented the office of the Presidency and also gave a speech. Our fallen sports heroes were honoured in a moving tribute and some lifetime achievers were recognized and also gave a few words.
When it came to the ultimate moment of announcing the sportsman of the year, the previous winner, the Minister and another person got on stage. The third person was then briefly introduced as the man who would be giving away a BMW to the sportsman of the year. The announcement was made and with a blink of the eye and close on midnight the production was over.
Nothing left to hear or say, left to our own devices we made our way down to parking. Chaotic and with organisers running out of tickets for everyone, people were delayed at the two parking stations more than at the exits.