Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Halala, Team South Africa, Halala!!

So after days of feeling grim, getting booked off with flu (happily of the non-swine variety) I am back! And I am pleased to say I landed myself the plum job of the day. I got assigned to hook up with a bunch of boys toting cameras and head off at dawn to the OR Tambo International Airport to cover the homecoming of Team South Africa and the ever-important arrival of one Caster Semenya. Yes, she of the is-she-really-a-woman? gender controversy cum racism debacle.
I TOTALLY love stories like this. You literally get thrown into the marauding masses, every man (or, ahem, woman) for himself as you fight for your story. You get to be part of the action, there when it happened and a witness to the unfolding of an historic moment. I had done the dawn drill when the bokke came home with the rugby world cup, so I had an idea of the game plan.
We got to OR Tambo really early, in the cold, but in good time to get a parking bay and a good spot in the airport terminal building. The excitement was already starting to build. The fans were there in force, singing Shosholoza, waving posters, dancing all over and blasting vuvuzelas. And for hours it built up to a fevered frenzy when finally Team South Africa touched down and the much-awaited athletes and medal winners made their appearance.
All very thrilling, but a difficult challenge when one has to now file a story via dictate over the phone!! Mission accomplished by ducking down a side passage and wedging myself behind a vending machine which proved to be somewhat of an excellent sound buffer!
Then off the stage set up in the parking lot for Sweet Caster and the other athletes to stand on stage and receive the applause and adoration of their fans. Such events of course don't go down without official speeches and such, so even though this was not the planned press conference it was grabbed as a political platform.
First we had Athletics SA chairman Leonard Chuene urge people to celebrate our country's athletic success along with their right to be angry over the questioning of Caster's gender along with an added request that they "be angry responsibly". Not sure what that means, other than to assume it to be a request to people to not break the law, smash stuff and kick over dustbins as seems to be our custom of late. Then some other political big wigs followed by - yes, my friend, yours and everybody else's - ANC Youth League president Julius Malema. How does this guy get himself invited to all this stuff, and why is he continually set free to say stupid things?
Did he let us down? Not a chance! Once again he took the podium to spout his opinion.
"Where are all the whites? The only whites here are the media who are the ones who have been writing all those wrong things," he ranted. This spiralled into racist media bashing as he eventually yelled out "Whether you like it or not, she is a woman."
Then some dancing and singing as kwaito star Chomee did her best to get Caster to dance with a little rhythm while the gangly teenager giggled sheepishly and cringed.
An interesting morning indeed.

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