Ramsamy recalls bitter battles with rugby boards

Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:08pm EST
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By John Mehaffey

LONDON (Reuters) - Director Clint Eastwood includes a scene in his film "Invictus" to demonstrate the opposition among black sports administrators to the Springbok rugby jersey and emblem.

In the movie, President Nelson Mandela narrowly wins grudging approval from the National Sports Council to retain the symbols of the apartheid era as part of his strategy to reach out to the minority Afrikaners.

The meeting and Mandela's eloquent address are not mentioned in the book "Playing the Enemy" on which the film is based.

According to former anti-apartheid campaigner Sam Ramsamy the opposition had existed but by 1995, the year of South Africa's World Cup triumph, Mandela had already won over the dissenters with extensive one-to-one meetings.

"There was no opposition to what Mandela said, we all accepted that," Ramsamy said in a telephone interview with Reuters. "It was Mandela's wish. There was overwhelming support, I wouldn't say for the Springbok emblem, but there was overwhelming support for what Mandela was doing."

Ramsamy, 72, now a member of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) executive board, was chairman of the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee while in exile during the later apartheid years.

He pulls no punches when he recounts the long fight to convince the rugby world that racially selected sides were morally wrong.

TOUGH TIME   Continued...