The power of endurance sports is often overlooked in a nation obsessed with soccer, rugby and cricket. Many sport fanatics can repeat Nelson Mandela’s quote about the power of sport with their eyes closed:
Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.
Every once in a while it’s good to be reminded of the evidence of his statement, so that with refreshed inspiration we can grasp the truth of his words. The CEO of Cape Town Tourism, Enver Duminy, looks at the power of sport within the context of South Africa specifically. In light of the recent Cape Cycle Tour (despite its cancellation) and current Cape Epic, Enver pays particular attention to the change that cycling brings to our country.
Power of endurance sports to bring in revenue
“Sports tourism is considered one of the largest and fastest-growing markets globally. South Africa, having been previously voted the world’s top sporting destination, is clearly dominating the field.
In the Cape, our calendar is loaded with endurance and triathlon events. Take the Cape Town Cycle Tour, for example – it’s the world’s biggest individually-timed cycling race with 35,000 participants, 4,000 of whom are international visitors. This race alone brings in more than R500 million, and does wonders for getting locals and visitors amped about taking to the roads and trails on two wheels. Of course, the unprecedented cancellation of the 2017 event shows that endurance sports are particularly vulnerable to many factors, but this is often part of the challenge for those thrill seekers out there.
The Absa Cape Epic contributed R300 million to the economy in 2016. A total of 600 teams of two signed up for the challenge of tackling a gruelling 700km route, many of which were the globe’s elite riders. Not to be left out, Cape Rouleur attracts 160 pro, former pro, celebrity, and amateur riders from sixteen countries across Africa, America, Australasia and Europe.
Power of endurance sports to change lives
We’ve seen cycling become an activity growing in popularity in places like Khayelitsha, where the sport is seen as an opportunity. The suburb has produced some great contenders, like Cape Epic rider Bonga Ngqobane.
He has now become the co-founder of the Khayelitsha-based Bonga.Org Cycling Academy and is passionate about giving young people the chance to ride. His goal is to provide the opportunity for youngsters to take up the sport as a matter of enjoyment, or to pursue the sport competitively . “I started this club because I wanted to give the youth more sport opportunities. Not all children are interested in soccer or other popular sports, and because there aren’t a lot of choices, they end up not doing any sport,” says Bonga.
He has reached out to 150 young people in the last three years, who now take part in the academy’s cycling events, and plans to branch-out to other disadvantaged townships in South Africa. “It’s an accomplishment for me because I get young people to follow their passion and believe that their dreams can come true if they have the motivation to drive it to completion,” says Bonga
These aren’t just weekend cyclists, their hobby has become their lifestyle, and it’s one that impacts the world around them. According to Cycling SA general manager Mike Bradley, the organisation had identified 32 academies across the country that were situated in townships and rural areas.
Power of endurance sports to encourage travel
Endurance events are directly linked to travel – thousands of avid participants plan their year around such events, especially since many have a long lead time after registering. For the extremely large events, air seats and accommodation need to be secured early on, and very often whole families are joining in either to race or to support. It’s a fantastic lifestyle – getting outside, seeing the world, and being active. The pleasure that comes from the travel experience is balanced with the joy of pushing yourself to the limit.
Feedback from the Sappi Karkloof Classic MTB Festival , for example, has shown that more participants are staying overnight for the event than previously. Statistics have proven that over 40 per cent of visitors are spectators, and more importantly, 90 per cent of them would attend again. Not only do these events attract visitors, but create return visitors so that there is a continual generation of revenue.
Even the smaller events are of great value . They often come with the call for increased funding and support, ando rganisers spend immense amounts of energy fundraising. But I applaud their commitment, because without these events we’d see fewer people traveling. By taking place place throughout the year and combating seasonality, they also have a major role in the creation of a more sustainable tourism economy and ultimately ojob opportunities.
It cannot be overstated how much endurance sports are part of our way of life in South Africa, and as these grow, we’ll see the benefits to our people from all walks of life.
By Enver Duminy – CEO of Cape Town Tourism