BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS
THE South African Senior and Junior Championships were held at the De Beers stadium, Griqualand West (now named the Northern Cape) in 1953 and was hosted by the South African Amateur Athletic and Cycling Board of Control.
Mr A Moses was the President of the Griqualand West Amateur Athletic and Cycling Union in 1953, and the president of the Griqualand West Coloured Amateur Athletic Club was Mr J.W. Orr.
As part of his message, as the host union, Moses said, “This South African Championship Meeting will be the first of its kind to be held in Kimberley, and on one of the finest athletic and cycling tracks in the country.”
(see the main colour photograph of the De Beers athletic and cycling tracks)
Looking at the record sheet of the 1953 meeting, the Griqualand West records were comparable to the SA records, for example, the SA men’s 220 yards record was 21,1 secs and the Griqua record 21,4 secs; the 440 yards was 48,7 secs to 48,8 secs. No names were placed next to the records.
No field records
Interestingly, no field records appear on the record sheet either, except for the men ‘s and junior men’s long jump and high jump events.
Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, chairman of De Beers Consolidated Mines, Ltd in his address said, “The promotion of sport amongst the non-European community is a matter of national importance and is deserving of the greatest encouragement.”
Mr C.H. Beck, the father of Graham Beck, said, “I feel sure that the whole of the sporting community in Kimberley feel gratified that this year the Diamond City has been chosen as the venue for this outstanding National sporting event.”
The president of the South African Amateur Athletic and Cycling Board of Control Mr W.C. Meyer said, “The furtherance of athletics and cycling among the non-European, it is hoped, would make the necessary rapid strides and fully equipped competitors, enabling them to win for themselves world recognition sometime in the near future.”
He spoke of a bright and successful future for athletics in 1953 when apartheid was in its 5th year.
On August 18, 1964, two months after Nelson Mandela was jailed for life, it was announced that South Africa would be banned from taking part in the Summer Games being held that October in Tokyo. South Africa was formally expelled from the International Olympic Committee in 1970.
And by 1992 when South Africa was welcomed back into the Olympic fold, the country had won a sum total of two medals: only two silver medals; one from Elana Meyer and from Wayne Ferreira and Piet Norval in the doubles tennis competition.
The situation today is much improved with a number of athletes coming through programmes of their own with little or no athletes coming through the ‘SA Government sports programmes’.