Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s impact on sports

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Nelson Mandela, who became South Africa’s first black president after spending 27 years in prison during an era of racial oppression, died at age 95 on Thursday.

Mandela’s reach was global, in many aspects. Some of his most enduring images came with a backdrop of sports.

He grew up an amateur boxer who admired the U.S. heavyweight champion Joe Louis.

“Mandela was a heavyweight boxer himself,” said artist Harold Riley, for whom Mandela sat for a portrait, to the Manchester Evening News in Great Britain in 2008. “He boxed while on Robben Island. It helped him to keep sane and fit.”

Mandela was also a reported cricket fan. He also famously encouraged a South African nation long divided by race to back a national rugby team. The Springboks, as they were known, had one black player on the roster at the 1995 Rugby World Cup hosted by South Africa.

The team made a surprising run to the title, beating New Zealand in the final, as portrayed in the 2009 film “Invictus.”

In a famous image, Mandela presented the trophy (William Webb Ellis Cup) to Sprinboks captain Francois Pienaar. He did it in a Springboks shirt and ballcap as a crowd of some 65,000 chanted his name.

“Sport has the power to change the world,” Mandela said. “It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else can.”

source: AP
AP

Mandela impacted the Olympic movement, too. He pushed Cape Town’s bid for the 2004 Games, eventually given to Athens.

“The Games have been staged in the four other continents,” Mandela said in a 1996 speech as Cape Town’s bid was in motion. “Now is the time for Africa to complete the five Olympic rings.”

Though Cape Town lost to Athens in bid city voting, Mandela still participated as a torchbearer during the 2004 Olympic torch relay, which visited Robben Island, where he had been imprisoned for opposing apartheid.

“I have been here for a very long time and to a very large extent Robben Island is a place with which I identify,” Mandela said in 2004. “I am very happy and honored that this honor has been given to Robben Island.”

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

An African nation has yet to host an Olympics, but they are expanding with Rio de Janeiro set to be the first South American host city in 2016.

South Africa did become the first African nation to host the World Cup in 2010.

His 13-year-old granddaughter, Zenani, was killed in a car accident while returning from an opening-day concert, and Mandela canceled his plans to attending opening-day festivities.

His appearance at the 2010 World Cup final, one of his last in public, was celebrated. Beaming, he smiled and waved while wrapped up during cold winter conditions.

source: Getty Images
Getty Images

Mandela was beloved by South Africa’s star Olympians, including swimmers from the 2004 Olympic 4x100m freestyle relay gold medal-winning team, like Roland Schoeman.

Photos: Team USA at the White House

Twitter: @TeamUSA
Twitter: @TeamUSA
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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the 2016 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams at the White House on Thursday.

Below are some of the best photos of Team USA from inside the White House:

Rome’s city council votes down 2024 Olympics bid

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ROME (AP) — As far as city leaders are concerned, Rome’s bid for the 2024 Olympics is finished.

The city council voted in favor of scrapping the bid on Thursday, a week after Mayor Virginia Raggi rejected the candidacy, citing concerns over costs.

The anti-bid motion passed easily as expected, since Raggi’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement holds a majority on the city council. There were 30 votes in favor of withdrawing the bid, and 12 votes against the motion.

The 5-Star Movement holds 29 of the 48 council places, and all 29 voted in support of the mayor’s rejection. There was also one supporting vote from an opposition party. Six council members were absent.

The rejection leaves only Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest, Hungary, in the running for the 2024 Games. The International Olympic Committee will decide on the host city in September 2017.

However, Rome bid leaders and the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) are hanging onto hope that the bid can somehow be revived — perhaps if Raggi is ousted from office.

IOC President Thomas Bach will be in Rome next Tuesday for a sports and faith conference at the Vatican.

“We’ll decide what to do after meeting Bach on Tuesday,” CONI president Giovanni Malago said.

It’s the second time in four years that a Rome Olympic bid has been rejected. In 2012, then-premier Mario Monti scrapped the city’s bid for the 2020 Olympics because of financial concerns.

Under previous mayor Ignazio Marino, Rome’s 2024 bid was approved by the city assembly last year with 38 votes in favor and only six against. Italian Premier Matteo Renzi was a strong supporter of the bid.

But Raggi, a 38-year-old lawyer who was elected in June as Rome’s first female mayor, cited worries over costs and budget overruns as reasons for rejecting the bid. She called the candidacy “irresponsible” for a city that can barely collect its trash and keep up other basic public services.

The latest rejection is another signal that the IOC still has a lot of work to do to convince cities that hosting the games is a boon and not a burden. Earlier Thursday, a city government panel in Tokyo warned that the cost of the 2020 Olympics could exceed $30 billion — more than four times the initial estimates.

Voters in Hamburg rejected the German city’s 2024 bid in a referendum. Boston also dropped out last year amid a lack of public and political support and was replaced as the U.S. candidate by Los Angeles.

Four cities withdrew during the bidding for the 2022 Winter Games, leaving only two candidates in the field. Beijing, hardly known as a winter sports destination, defeated Almaty, Kazakhstan.

MORE: Tokyo Olympics costs could top $30 billion, experts warn