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.

It’s official: U.S. sending 555 athletes to Rio Olympics

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27:  Mariel Zagunis of the United States Olympic fencing team carries her country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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With a ceremony on Venice Beach, just outside Los Angeles, which is bidding for the 2024 Olympics Games, the 2016 U.S. Olympic team was officially confirmed Saturday for the Rio Games.

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Janet Evans, who is on the LA 2024 Olympic bid committee, hosted the event and was joined on stage by women’s basketball player Tamika Catchings, who will make her fourth Olympic appearance, as well as water polo player Tony Azevedo and beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings, both of whom are set for their fifth Olympics.

Evans confirmed a roster 555 U.S. athletes, which will be the largest athlete delegation of any nation, the first time since 2004 that the U.S. held that distinction at a Summer Olympics.

Among the interesting numbers released by Team USA:

– The most women (292) to ever compete for one nation in Olympic history; 263 U.S. men will compete.

– Americans will participate in 244 of the 306 medal events in Rio.

– The U.S. will be represented in 27 sports (40 disciplines).

– 191 returning Olympians.

– Three six-time Olympians – equestrian Phillip Dutton, and shooters Emil Milev and Kim Rhode – giving the U.S. 11 athletes in history, summer or winter, to make six Games.

– Seven five-time Olympians – Tony Azevedo (water polo), Glenn Eller (shooting), Bernard Lagat (track and field), Steven Lopez (taekwondo), Michael Phelps (swimming), Kerri Walsh Jennings (beach volleyball) and Venus Williams (tennis). Only 35 U.S. athletes in addition to these have appeared in at least five Olympics.

– 19 four-time Olympians, 50 three-time Olympians, 112 two-time Olympians and 363 Olympic rookies.

– 108 returning Olympic medalists, 68 returning Olympic gold medalists, and 45 Olympians owning multiple medals.

– 53 U.S. athletes will attempt to defend titles from London; 19 in individual events.

– 54 of the athletes are parents.

– 17 athletes have military ties.

– 46 states are represented.

MORE: U.S. Olympic team of 550-plus athletes most of any nation in Rio

Fans in Vegas miss U.S. Olympic hoops exhibition due to glitch

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 20:  Kevin Durant #5 of the 2016 USA Basketball Men's National Team signs autographs for fans after a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Thousands of fans expecting to see the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team play against Argentina inside a Las Vegas arena were left outside because of a ticketing snafu.

Box office staff at T-Mobile Arena were overwhelmed Friday night by the number of people picking up will call tickets or wanting to purchase on-site.

Some customers reported delays of as much as 2 hours and never made it inside.

MGM Resorts International, which owns the arena, apologized. The company said in a statement that it would grant refunds to anyone unable to attend.

The game was the first of five exhibitions the U.S. will play before traveling to Rio to defend the gold medal.

The U.S. team, which won 111-74, has spent the last week practicing in Las Vegas.

MORE: What if Kobe Bryant wanted back on Olympic team after 60-point NBA finale?