Team SA Sent Off In Style
Hundreds of South Africans turned up at OR Tambo International Airport on Thursday afternoon to send off the Olympic team with cheering and the singing of 'Shosholoza'.
"What are we going to do in London?" asked Sascoc president Gideon Sam the crowd. "Win some medals," he shouted.
"Let us tell the world that we are not coming to London just to make up the numbers."
The event was the official send-off for Team SA and was sponsored by LeadSA.
The venue was the OR Tambo International trade building and it was filled to half capacity with supporters, Olympic athlete family members, and dozens of schoolchildren from the Molokonyane Primary School, in Hammanskraal.
The South African athletes stood to receive accolades, embraces and fist bumps from the waiting crowds.
Some of the more recognisable athletes like Caster Semenya and Oscar Pistorius were not at the rally, but this did not dampen the mood of the crowd.
"I thought I'd see my Semenya," said one fan, Jackie Matladi. As she spoke, Matladi began running in place in tribute to South Africa's "Golden Girl".
Another prominent no-show was Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula, who was scheduled to appear. His director general Alec Moemi egged the team on instead.
"This team has all it takes to deliver 12 medals," Moemi said. "We want more than 12, but we will settle for 12."
South Africa's High Commissioner in London Cheryl Carolus reminded them they had already accomplished a lot.
"Everyday, every one of you is already winning," she said.
Carolus also said that South Africa had met many challenges in its young history and proved naysayers wrong.
"South Africa is a winning nation. We have succeeded against all odds," she said, adding: "No pressure."
The event included organised cheering led by LeadSA media personalities, but some of the most touching moments came when family members of the athletes bade farewell to their loved ones.
"I'm extra, extra excited and proud," said Eleanor Moodaly, mother of Banyana Banyana soccer player Robyn Moodaly.
She usually saw her daughter only at weekends because she was enrolled in a training school in Pretoria. Many of those weekends involved long drives to Durban to watch her daughter play.
"I do miss her but its for her own benefit," she said. "She trains very hard. She loves this."