Wayde van Niekerk Monument
Wayde van Niekerk, as expected was the biggest winner at the South African Sports Awards that were held in Bloemfontein on Sunday. This was the second year running that the event was held in the City of Roses, and Wayde has been consistent in winning the same South African Sports Star of the Year last year and this year. Wadye made headlines at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, when he won gold in the 400m, breaking the world record at a time of 43,03. Wayde also won the SA Sportsman of the Year award and the People’s Choice Awards were also monopolised by Wadye, South Africa’s golden boy. I think it is therefore prudent that the City of Bloemfontein must consider making the necessary preparations to ensure that a monument, created as an interpretation centre with a statue of Wayde Van Niekerk be created in Bloemfontein.
The choice of Sand du Plessis as the venue for the SA Sports Awards was a stroke of brilliance, as it is behind the Fidel Castro Building, which the tallest building in the city, as news filtered that the great statesman from the Caribbean was no more. On the other hand, St. Andrews Street is one of the streets that provides access to the Sand du Plessis Theatre. What is genius luck, is that St. Andrews Street feeds into Kings Way which is the access road for Waterfront Mall on the right and the sports stadia complex on the left which includes the 2010 FIFA World Cup Stadium, Free State Stadium and the Athletics Stadium where Wayde van Niekerk trains. Further up Kings Way, the name of the street changes, to become St. George Grey and that is the traditional tree lined entrance of Grey College Secondary School, where Wayde studied.
Wayde has created history for Bloemfontein and the clear coincidences can be properly commodified, packaged and commercialised for tourism consumption. I am of the view that the Free State Athletics Stadium can be the ideal site for the Wayde van Niekerk Monument and Statue as a means of making the stadium a tourist attraction following the footsteps of Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban. The Wayde van Niekerk Monument and Statue can be modelled around the Tim Tebow Statue at the University of Florida in the city Gainsville is today one of the must-see attractions in Gainsville. Destinations that are serious about tourism understand that heritage remains the top interest of tourists when they visit a destination. Tourists seek to understand what is unique and different about a destination, as part of the well packaged and communicated story. Wayde van Niekerk was a blessing for the Mangaung, and this blessing can used to diversify the tourism product offering of Mangaung to create jobs and ignite the local economy. Commemorating our living legends is imperative as a means of building social cohesion, and creating a new reality for our divided country.
Mr. Unathi Sonwabile Henama teaches tourism at the Tshwane University of Technology and writes in his personal capacity.