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Indeed, the argument that democracy must rule before South Africans may reenter the Olympic movement flies in the face of the fact that the oppressions and atrocities practiced by such governments as those of China, East Germany, Iran, Iraq and Syria were never enough to keep those countries out of the Games. As Dick Pound, an IOC vice-president from Canada, puts it, "We can't put South Africa off until everything there is fair. If we only allowed in countries where everything is fair, we would have a very small Olympic Games." Even Ramsamy says, "Yes, it would be very, very good if South Africa had a society equitable for all. We all want that. But that is an ideal we can only strive for. It would be very good to achieve it, but there are many other societies in the world that have not achieved that either."
The truth is that in South Africa most sports were integrated at the higher levels—for spectators as well as athletes-many years before De Klerk made his noble promises. Gert le Roux, who has worked with the South African Amateur Athletic Union since 1972, recalls, "We have not been allowed to compete outside the country since we were kicked out of the IAAF in 1976, but from the moment we were expelled, we went to work and changed our constitution to open all our clubs to everyone. We did it voluntarily, and we did it completely."
At the Pretoria championships last week, there was a racial mix, but whites, on the track and in the stands, were far more numerous than blacks. Track and field has long been a white sport in South Africa—mainly beloved by Afrikaners. Thus, black and other nonwhite athletes have come to it only lately, in relatively small numbers—except for road and distance running, in which they have excelled. Blacks have also been afforded almost no coaching or facilities worthy of the name.
In South Africa's infamous townships and homelands, mostly filthy areas that were—and still are—South Africa's way of keeping blacks out of sight, out of mind and out of luck, sports programs of any kind were, until a couple of years ago, virtually nonexistent. In Alexandra, a township of half a million blacks stuck away on the northern outskirts of Johannesburg, there is some amazing acreage tucked amid endless square miles of tin shacks and shanties. There are a couple of clean, new tennis courts, a well-kept practice area for cricket and a fairly grassy soccer field. Around the entire facility is a chainlink fence that has been laced with spirals of razor wire. The director of the Alexandra All-Sport Congress, which runs the complex, is Vusi Thabethe, a smiling, cheerful man who does not say cheerful things: "Without the razor wire, everything movable inside would be stolen, and the chain-link fence itself would be stolen, too. But I must tell you, this is the only level soccer pitch in the entire township—89 teams use it. As you can see, we are very proud of all this, but as you can also see, comparing the sporting opportunities of an eight-year-old in a township with those of an eight-year-old in a [white] suburb is definitely a case of apples and bananas. South African sport will still be white South African sport to a large extent for quite a while."
It is common in South Africa to describe the nation as combining the characteristics of both a rich, first-world country and an impoverished, third-world land, a mutation that thrives in the climate of apartheid. Johannesburg's white suburbs, surrounding the mostly black urban center, are clean and lush with flowering trees, shaped shrubs and manicured lawns. In the dry, clear, 6,000-foot-high atmosphere of autumn, those suburbs resemble the serene and elegant environs of Beverly Hills. But more and more residents of the opulent houses are building high walls, and they are spending more and more money on burglar alarms, guard dogs, security services and guns. They are afraid to venture forth on foot after dark in downtown Johannesburg, by day a gleaming patch of skyscrapers not unlike Dallas, because street robberies and muggings have become so common. The national unemployment rate is approaching 35%, a staggering figure and the highest it has been since such statistics have been kept.
Most of these whites have never visited the nearby black townships of Alexandra or Soweto, and they probably never will, because they are afraid. In Soweto, a 26-Square-mile section of 2.5 million blacks who exist among a wide range of living conditions, police report dozens of violent deaths on a normal weekend. Some are domestic murders, some are random street shootings, some occur during robberies or result from encounters with police, and still others are manifestations of centuries-old tribally based rivalries between groups such as Zulus and Xhosas. The weapons used range from spears and machetes to AK-47s. On a bad Saturday night, Soweto's Baragwanath Hospital looks like a MASH unit. The residents of Soweto or Alexandra are not afraid to go into the elegant white neighborhoods; they do it every day—to cook meals, make beds, manicure lawns.
This is the freak world that apartheid has wrought—unequal, unstable, unconscionable. A few people are predicting that a racial apocalypse is inevitable as South Africa's economy gets worse and frustrated, out-of-work blacks realize that there is not going to be any automatic postapartheid reward. Yet others say that once the economy begins to show even a hint of growth, life will become more comfortable for all races.
Amid this uncertainty, last week's hopeful glimpses of a very near future in which South Africa is welcomed back to the worlds of both commerce and sport were encouraging, but with reservations—the very feeling expressed by the runner Motshwarateu: My god, how I hope it is time.