2 August 2005
It seems South Africa is the world in one country after all.
In the presentation that helped London secure the 2012 Olympic Games was Inspiration, a short film showing children from four continents being inspired by the Games to become athletes themselves. Except the children weren’t from four continents – they were all South African.
The first part of the film shows kids from Mexico, Africa, Russia and China watching images of London winning the 2012 bid. The second part followed them growing up and chasing their dreams of being Olympian cyclists, runners, swimmers and gymnasts.
But it turns out that the actor playing Pedro, the Mexican cyclist, is in fact Earl Adams from Tshwane. Sophie the Russian swimmer is Melissa Ramsay of Centurion, while Caitlin Ho of Edenglen plays Taek-Hoi, the Chinese gymnast.
The only actor who didn’t have to pretend to be from elsewhere was runner Siphiwe Mbatha, who is indeed from Soweto.
The film was shot in and around the province of Gauteng for £400 000 (some R4.7-million) by South African-born producer Caroline Rowland and British director Darryl Goodrich of New Moon productions.
Rowland comes from Welkom in the Free State and studied journalism at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. Her parents live in Johannesburg.
Inspiration had tough competition from a film by Hollywood heavyweight Steven Spielberg, who supported the New York bid, and acclaimed French director Luc Besson’s showcase of Paris. But it seems South Africa’s kids helped pulled it through.
“It was such a great honour to be up against them,” Goodrich said. “They are renowned film-makers. But we weren’t daunted because we were confident that we had a good creative idea.”
Rowland agreed. “I think it raised a few eyebrows when Spielberg and Besson were involved and it was announced that Goodrich and Rowland would make the film for London,” she said. “It’s nice to come through at the end.”
There has been French criticism of the child actors’ real nationality, which Rowland rejects.
“The London video represents a vision,” she told the British Mail on Sunday. “When you are portraying fiction, it is impractical to jump across continents.”
‘I didn’t fall off once’
The South African kids all agree that making the film was a great experience.
“I didn’t fall off once,” eight-year-old Earl Adams of Tshwane, who plays Pedro the Mexican cyclist, told the Mail on Sunday. “When I heard London had won the bid I jumped around a lot.”
Although Melissa Ramsay (7) of Centurion can only do the dog-paddle, she loved being Sophie the Russian swimmer. “It was fun,” she told the Mail. “I love being in front of the camera.”
According to Sophie’s mother Elsa Ramsay, Melissa has no Olympic aspirations. “Her dream is to become a vet.”
But Siphiwe Mbatha (12) of Soweto is a real Olympic hopeful. In the film he is seen running down a dirt road in Africa.
“I’ve got awards at home,” Mbatha told the newspaper. “One day I want to run in the Olympics.” The only problem, he says, is that “my parents can’t afford coaching.”
Rainbow magic, Madiba magic
For Margaret Ho, mother of Caitlin Ho (7) – who plays Chinese gymnast Taek-Ho – the film gives kudos to South Africa’s kids.
“I was told the story was about children from different backgrounds who end up representing their countries at the Olympics,” she told the Mail on Sunday. “I think it’s quite a coup that South African kids were instrumental in winning the bid for London.”
And not only the country’s kids: Madiba magic may also have played a role. Nelson Mandela came out strongly in support of London’s Olympic hopes.
In a statement released in April, the former South African president and 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner said that London’s unique cultural diversity made it the ideal city to host the 2012 Games.
“There is no city like London,” Mandela said. “It is a wonderfully diverse and open city providing a home to hundreds of different nationalities from all over the world.
Mandela said that London would offer “something very special to the Olympic Movement, including great new sporting facilities and a legacy for generations to come.
“I can’t think of a better place than London to hold an event that unites the world. The Games in London will inspire athletes as well as young people around the world and ensure that the Olympic Games remain the dream for future generations.”