South Africa to join '92 Games with integrated team Decision ends 32-year ban

flag, anthem in dispute

November 07, 1991|By Christopher S. Wren | Christopher S. Wren,New York Times News Service

JOHSNNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA — JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- South Africa will send a racially integrated team of athletes to the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, next July, ending an absence of 32 years, sports officials announced last night.

But disputes remain over the flag, anthem and emblem to be used by the South African athletes.

South Africa last competed in the Olympics in 1960 before being expelled for its apartheid policies, which included sending whites, but not blacks, to represent the country at sporting events abroad.

"This is the first time we can say that South Africa is taking part in the Olympic Games," said Sam Ramsamy, the head of the new National Olympic Committee of South Africa, in announcing the decision last night.

"South Africa has never taken part in the Olympic Games before, although a section of South Africa had," Ramsamy said, referring to the country's white minority. "And we are very pleased that we can get a South African team representing South Africa which will have the support of all South Africa at Barcelona."

On July 9, the International Olympic Committee decided at a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, to readmit South Africa. But a formal invitation to the 1992 Games hinged on further progress toward the unification of South Africa's racially disparate sports bodies.

The process has not been completed, but Olympic officials accept that unification is well on its way.

South Africa was expelled from Olympic competition by the IOC in 1970 because of the country's policies of racial discrimination. But its Olympic exile has lasted longer.

South Africa last competed in the 1960 Summer Games in Rome with an all-white team, but stayed home in 1964 and 1968 because of threats of boycotts by African nations and countries in the Soviet bloc.

In 1977, the United Nations and the British Commonwealth imposed their own bans on sporting relation

ships with South Africa. As a result, South African athletes have been unwelcome in virtually all international competition, including the sports that are most popular with South Africans: soccer, rugby and cricket.

Some South African athletes, however, were able to compete in the Olympics after gaining citizenship in other countries.

At a news conference yesterday, Ramsamy displayed a flag with cascading red, blue and green bands set against a mountain. It would replace South Africa's orange, white and blue flag, which is identified with white minority rule.

And he said the team's anthem would be the "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which is also the Olympic hymn.

Ramsamy also said a nationwide contest would be held to pick a new mascot to replace the traditional springbok, a kind of gazelle.

Ramsamy, who spent three decades in exile for opposing apartheid, described South Africa's return to international acceptance as "a very, very rocky road."

He gave President F.W. de Klerk credit because, Ramsamy said, "he dismantled apartheid to a large extent." But he was more lavish in praising the African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement. Most anti-apartheid groups, including the congress, have dropped their opposition to the resumption of international sports ties with South Africa.

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