Balfour promises support
Minister of Sport and Recreation Ngconde Balfour promised the athletes who returned from the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday that they had the full support of the government.
Team South Africa came back from Manchester with 46 medals in total - 12 more than were won in Kuala Lumpur in 1998 - including nine gold medals. However, most sporting bodies in the country are battling to find sponsors and the athletes have had to struggle on meagre pickings.
"Don't despair," Balfour told them at Johannesburg International Airport on Tuesday, "the government really cares about you.
"By the time I leave as sports minister, things will have turned for the better....that is a promise I make to these athletes."
And then he quipped: "Even if I have to rob the reserve bank to do it."
He admitted that it had become increasingly difficult for sporting bodies to gain sponsorships from the business sector and that government were doing everything in their power to ensure the funding would be available.
"We are working towards being on the same par as countries such as Australia and England but we need to be aware of the competing priorities for money in the country."
Some 100 people were at the arrivals hall to welcome the team, many of them being family of the athletes.
Balfour saluted the parents of the athletes, acknowledging the sacrifices many of them have had to make in order for their children to achieve the high level of success.
In welcoming the team, Balfour said they had made the country very proud. "To us you are an asset. You came back with 12 medals more than in Kuala Lumpur even though the team itself was smaller.
"On behalf of President Mbeki and his government, I would like to congratulate you on your achievement."
A meeting with Mbeki will be set up at a later stage.
Chef de mission Banele Sindani said the team that came back was truly a South African team. "There were no cliques this time....the athletes were all one.
"Whether they got a medal or not every athlete did their very best."