On the 20th and 21st June 2008, Fiat Group Automobiles South Africa will once again play host to the Soweto School Games at the Fiat Sports Centre in Meadowlands, Soweto.
Underlining Fiat’s commitment to this community initiative, is the fact that this is the third time this annual event has been staged by the automotive company. And, each year it proves more popular – there are always more schools and more pupils that want to participate, not to mention the fact that each successive event offers additional sporting disciplines to make the games even more competitive.
In fact, such is the magnitude of the project that the group of people that are working to realise the 2008 edition, have already started planning for the 2009 and 2010 events.
How It All Started
At the end of 2003, Fiat Group Automobiles South Africa South Africa with Managing Director Giorgio Gorelli as the driving force, identified the need to start an initiative that would have an overwhelmingly positive impact on the community. Following countless visits to Soweto, the local authorities were approached and Fiat proposed the development of a soccer field with proper amenities to allow young talent to be trained and nurtured.
After numerous attempts, Fiat was finally offered a rubbish dump, with the promise that if the area was cleaned up, permission might be granted to transform it into a sports centre.
Fiat wasted no time and proceeded to clear the area, plant grass and install an irrigation system. Within a few months (June 2004) the very first match was played between a team of Italians and the Soweto Panthers.
In recognition of the work done, the local community organised an official signing ceremony between Johannesburg City Council and Fiat Group Automobiles on the 18th of November 2005.
It was at this point that Gorelli – with full backing from the authorities – decided to take another giant leap and so work commenced on turning the soccer field into a fully-fledged sports centre for the school children of Soweto, with different sport facilities to foster a multi-disciplinary approach.
The following structures were completed during 2006 with the help of additional sponsors:
- Eight-lane athletics track – Sponsored by Fiat
- Basketball court – Sponsored by Marble Classic
- Two volleyball courts – Sponsored by CTM
- Two netball courts – Sponsored by CTM
- Long jump facility – Sponsored by JAS Forwarding
- Changing rooms – Sponsored by Associazione del’Amicizia
Utilisation and vision for future development
- In 2006 it was decided to organise a multi-disciplinary sport event for the schools in Soweto. This led to the very first Soweto School Games. It proved to be such a resounding success that it paved the way for the games to become an annual happening.
- Eight schools (700 learners) participated in the inaugural games and over 1500 community members witnessed the festivities. Three meals were served to the participating athletes and by the end of the day over 2000 meals and 4000 bottles had been handed out to those attending the games.
- 2007 saw the games growing in size – this time over 14 schools participated in the event. Once again, there was a full range of sporting activities covered that day including soccer, basketball, netball, volleyball, long jump, high jump and track athletics. With the number of schools increasing, so did the spectators – over 3000 the members of the community attended the event.
- For 2008, at least 22 schools are eager to participate in the Soweto School Games. To facilitate this large number the games will have to be held over a period of two days, Friday the 20th of June for the preliminary games and Saturday the 21st of June for the final matches of each discipline (soccer, netball, volley ball, basket ball, high jump, long jump and track athletics).
- According to Toni Klopper, Events Manager for Fiat Group Automobiles South Africa: “The logistical complexity of organising the games is mind-boggling. Everything has to be supplied from scratch.This includes clothing kits for the different sporting disciplines, score cards, timing equipment, ablution facilities, stand-by medics, security, trophies and even the certificates for every single participant.
Not forgetting, of course, that each participant needs three wholesome meals per day as well as liquid refreshment. Then you still have the VIP guests – last year we were privileged to have the former Italian Ambassador, His Excellency A. Cevese; the M.C. for Sport, Barbara Creecy; and the former Bafana Bafana coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, in attendance.”
- Klopper concluded by saying that, “despite the challenges of organising the games, it’s all worth it in the end. Just seeing the smiles on those beaming faces is reward enough.”