The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) has come out in defence of the much criticised kit worn by Team South Africa at the Olympic Games in Brazil.
Yesterday, javelin silver medallist Sunette Viljoen complained about it on Twitter.
Sascoc president Gideon Sam initially refused to be drawn into the furious debate over what some have called the worst apparel yet donned by an SA team at the Olympics.
But yesterday he came out in defence of Chinese kit sponsor 361-Degrees.
“I don’t want to talk about the tracksuits‚” Sam said at first. “In terms of the colour [of the kit]‚ that we can talk about.”
If the critics wanted the kit to change‚ he said, they would have to better the monetary injection 361-Degrees was putting into Team SA.
“In terms of who is responsible for it‚ [it is] the person with the money‚” Sam said.
“It started off with Erke [at the 2012 Olympics].
“Now it is 361-Degrees‚ and they have the money.
“If you have R25-million, are you going to allow someone else to dictate to you?
“You won’t. It’s your money. Nobody can dictate how they should do it.
“Erke started off by saying: ‘Guys, nobody wants to help you in your country‚ come to us‚ here’s R20-million – we will give it to every team you put on the field’.”
Sam said he had noted public concern about the kit and had discussed the issue with Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.
They agreed that in future the colour and cut of the tracksuits would need to be discussed with all stakeholders.
The contract with 361-Degrees runs until the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“The issue [the minister and I] have agreed on is that maybe we need to look at the cut and colour of the tracksuit‚” Sam said. “It’s a four-year cycle. “Anybody who wants to come forward now must say: ‘I have more than R25-million. Let me sponsor you.’
“Then they can decide even where they want to get the tracksuit cut and where they want to get it manufactured.
“If they decide it must be with Sactwu [SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union] in Cape Town‚ it will be.
“But South Africans must understand it is not their money‚ it is the sponsors’ [money].”
Sam denied that any of the SA athletes had voiced dissatisfaction with the kit during the Games in Rio.
“The cut may not have been that good‚ but none of the athletes came to us – maybe they were scared – and said ‘I don’t like this colour’,” he said.
“I will agree that maybe in future we must stick to this [current colour].”
Yesterday, Viljoen tweeted: “If you train 6 days a week for four long years and then eagerly open your Olympic kit only to be let down so bad . . . it’s heartbreaking.”
She also revealed that no measurements had been taken of the athletes ahead of going to Brazil. She had to pay out of her own pocket to have her kit altered.