Though he congratulated all members of the squad and wished them well at the Tokyo Games, sports minister Nathi Mthethwa criticised national federations on Thursday for an alleged lack of transformation in South Africa’s Olympic team.
Among the sports that will lead the country’s medal charge, there were some notable shortfalls in terms of transformation targets when the final national squad of more than 180 athletes was announced last week.
Of the 29 men in the athletics team, 23 are athletes of colour, but there are only five women in the squad and none of them are black.
In the pool, eight of the 15 swimmers are women, but they are all white.
And while the 13-man rugby sevens squad includes 10 players of colour, the women’s team did not qualify for the Games.
“Interactions with recognised national federations regarding transformation scorecards proves that the goal of attaining inclusivity remains as elusive this time around as ever before,” Mthethwa said.
While some sports had made significant strides in recent years, in line with targets monitored and measured by the Eminent Person’s Group on Transformation, Mthethwa said the slow progress was still a concern as national teams were not yet representative of the country’s demographics.
“This situation appears to persist despite efforts to introduce policies and other measures that seek to simultaneously encourage commitment to transformation,” he said.
While he acknowledged the challenges the athletes had faced in the build-up to the quadrennial Games, which had been postponed last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mthethwa hoped the squad would return home with a bag of medals.
“Despite challenges peculiar to participating in the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, in addition to the usual resource constraints, South Africa still has high expectations of Team SA and we wish them well,” he said.
South Africa will compete in 19 of the 33 codes that will be contested at the two-week Olympic Games starting on 23 July.
The Paralympic Games, also being held in Tokyo, will start on 24 August.