On Monday August 15, many South Africans woke in the early morning hours to watch Wayne van Niekerk run the 400m Olympic final and go on to not only win the race with a time of 43.03 seconds, but also shatter the 17-year record of 43.18 seconds set by America’s Michael Johnson in the 1999 World Championships.
The 24-year old Cape Town-born sprinter won the hearts of people all over the country. Now, a move has been made by Premier Helen Zille to rename the Green Point Athletics Stadium in honour of the track superstar.
Ms Zille said last week she had written to Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille proposing the name change.
Wayde’s father, Wayne van Niekerk, said he was very proud of his son’s achievements at the Olympics. “It is a big honour for the family that they are even considering renaming the stadium after Wayde,” he said.
Mr Van Niekerk, who was also a keen athlete in his day, said he had participated in high jump events at the Athlone Stadium before they started using the old Green Point track in the late 1980s. “I think Wayde has inspired youngsters to take up athletics,” he added.
He said his son would be back in Cape Town later this month after spending some time in the Free State.
Speaking of Wayde’s achievements, Ms Zille said: “These are extraordinary feats, especially for a 24-year-old university student. I believe it would be appropriate to honour Wayde, by renaming the current Green Point Athletics Stadium after him.
“He has not only done the country proud, but his home city and province. The renaming of the stadium would not only serve as a reminder of his incredible story, but as an inspiration to many other young people – demonstrating that anything is possible, with the right combination of discipline, hard work and dedication.”
Asked for his opinion, Luke Stevens, vice-chairman of the Green Point Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association, said: “It’s a sweet sentiment to honour Van Niekerk but a bad idea to name a permanent structure after a living person.”