South Africa joins Australia and New Zealand in Wales, both of whose Paralympic teams had previously announced that they will be based here before the Games.
The decision by the South African Sport Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) to choose Cardiff as their Paralympic team’s base came after months of negotiation and hard work behind the scenes, and in the face of stiff competition from London and Leeds.
First Minister Rhodri Morgan said:
“I’m delighted that the South African Paralympic team have chosen Wales as their training base before the 2012 Games and I know their athletes will receive a warm Welsh welcome. The decision reflects a lot of hard work behind the scenes and shows that what Wales has to offer is what southern hemisphere team needing training camps for 2012 really appreciate.”
Heritage Minister Alun Ffred Jones said:
“Following on from earlier announcements by the Australian and New Zealand Paralympic teams, this announcement by the South Africans is further good news, and a reflection of the excellent facilities we have here in Wales and hard work that has been put in by the Welsh Assembly Government and its partners, in this case, Disability Sport Wales and Cardiff Council.”
“To put this announcement into perspective, to-date 16 nations have signed agreements with different parts of the UK to stage pre-game training camps for 2012 and many of those agreements are either for very small Olympic and Paralympic teams or agreements made by individual sports - not multi-sport camps that involve large numbers of athletes and support staff. Wales now has almost one-fifth of agreements, and all ours are large multi-sport camps. This means around 500 team members will be based here in Wales prior to the Paralympics.”
“We are fortunate to have world-class LOCOG accredited facilities throughout Wales and are actively pursuing other teams to persuade them to base themselves here as we continue to try to bring the benefits of the London Games to all parts of Wales.”
SASCOC President Gideon Sam said:
"This was a very exciting adventure for us to identify the training facilities and we hope that our federations are as excited as us about the choice.
"This training camp will allow us to bring our managers and support structure along and this will also assist and facilitate the gelling together of the team. They need to get to know each other well before the Games. The last thing we want is for them to get to London and then meet each other for the first time. This way we will be able to build the trust, and naturally the spirit, of the team as early as possible.
"And lastly, while we are in Wales, and making use of their excellent facilities, we are looking forward to tapping into their own sporting expertise; from their universities for example, and hopefully form working relationships for the future."
The South African team is likely to include many high-profile Paralympians including Oscar 'Blade runner' Pistorius, the double amputee sprinter and world-record holder in the 100, 200 and 400 metres, and amputee swimmer Natalie De Toit, who last year became the first amputee to qualify for the Olympic Games since 1928. She came 16th in the 10K Olympic open water swim in Beijing, before going on to compete in the Paralympics, where she repeated the feat of winning 5 Paralympic gold medals that she achieved in Athens four years previously.
SASCOC's Vinesh Maharaj, who will be project manager for the South African Paralympic team in 2012, added that a large number of factors had to be taken into consideration in making the decision:
"Cardiff emerged as the choice because of the sheer number of facilities available to the team during the holding camp and also their outreach programmes in involving and developing athletes with disabilities for sporting excellence.”
26 October 2009