Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s impact on sports


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

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
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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
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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.

Ex-Canadian Olympic Committee president sorry for behavior, quits law firm

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MONTREAL (AP) — Former Canadian Olympic Committee President Marcel Aubut has apologized for his behavior amid allegations he sexually harassed several women.

He said in a statement Friday he has been “living in turmoil,” offering “unreserved apologies” from the “bottom of my heart” to all who have been hurt by his conduct. The 67-year-old Aubut adds he is leaving his BCF law firm and seeking counseling.

Aubut resigned as Canadian Olympic Committee president last weekend after women accused him of sexual comments and unwanted touching. Interim president Tricia Smith has said the organization’s board was not aware of “any specific interactions that would be construed as harassment.”

Aubut was CEO of the NHL’s Quebec Nordiques until the team moved to Colorado in 1995. He was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.

MORE: Canada sets Rio 2016 medals goal

Magnificent Seven reunion in the works

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Magnificent Seven teammates had a message for team captain Amanda Borden after they won gold at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.

“You have to get us back together,” Borden remembered in a phone interview Friday.

Reunions have been rare in the last 15 years, but Borden said she’s been in contact with all of her teammates to arrange at least one get-together in 2016 to mark the 20-year anniversary of their Olympic triumph.

“It’s easier said than done,” said Borden, who owns two Phoenix-area gyms with her husband and has three children. “I know every one of us really wants to make it happen. We are definitely doing it. It’s just a matter of if all of us can be there.”

It may happen in Atlanta. It may be at a USA Gymnastics event, such as the Olympic trials in San Jose, Calif., in July. It may be somewhere less visible, such as a warm beach.

It probably won’t happen in Rio de Janeiro, because it’s hard to coordinate the schedules of all seven women for an event abroad, even though some will be at the Olympics anyway.

Borden and Kerri Strug said they don’t remember all seven members of the team being together since 2008, the year the Magnificent Seven shared a stage for a U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame induction (photo here).

“[Borden] has put out the feelers; it seems like we’re on board,” Strug said while in New York last month for an Epson “Swimming in Ink” event with U.S. synchronized swimmers. “Do we want to do a cruise or take a vacation?”

The other Magnificent Seven team members were Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes, Shannon MillerDominique Moceanu and Jaycie Phelps.

MORE GYMNASTICS: Shannon Miller recalls 1996 Olympic podium thoughts in book excerpt