Olympic Focus: South Africa

As the 2012 London Olympics moves into its fifth day of competition, world records continue to be broken. Last Sunday, twenty-four-year-old South African swimmer Cameron van der Burgh earned a gold medal in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke. In the process, he shaved twelve seconds off of the world record by completing the event in just 58.46 seconds. Van der Burgh is the first South African man to win an individual Olympic gold medal.

Two days later, fellow South African Chad le Clos won a gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly, a victory that forced American Michael Phelps to accept the silver for his record-breaking 19th medal. All is now redeemed for South Africa after a poor showing in Beijing in 2008.

The Olympics always inspires extreme bursts of patriotism (just think about how moving those VISA commercials with the Morgan Freeman voiceover become this time of year). South Africa is no exception to this trend. Following the gold medal wins – particularly van der Burgh’s – Twitter exploded with support from South African citizens. Here are a few of the tweets from that night:

“u made us so proud last night and gold is your colour”
 
“I”d just like to point out that Cameron van der Burgh is from Pretoria. That”s right, my home city. The one other SAcans always laugh at…”
 
“I just wanted to say that you are my absolute inspiration and that you r a legend and I really look up to you! Thank you for being so amazing!”
 

Even van der Burgh himself had something to tweet: 

“I am an Olympic Champion! :) humbled by your tweets. Overwhelmed Emotions! … all my life had been but preparation for this challenge!”
 

But we’ve always known that South Africa is passionate about its sports. Let’s flash back to the 2010 World Cup. Remember the vuvuzelas? Those long plastic trumpets that made every soccer game sound like the stadium was being attacked by a swarm of bees? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, please, let me introduce them…I present to you the South African soccer fan’s best friend:

Music in South Africa

 South African music, however, is not limited to these one-pitch plastic horns. Music in this country is a melting pot of Western and African instruments, gospel, a cappella, and a variety of tribal tunes. The South African national anthem provides a good example of many of these ingredients:

This song has a fascinating history. During apartheid, two separate anthems developed, one for the black Africans and one for the white Africans. From 1995-1997, under Nelson Mandela’s watch, both anthems lived on, often one playing right after the other at sporting events. Then, in 1997, someone finally decided it was time to merge the two songs. And ta-da, you end up with what you just listened to above!

The current South African national anthem is unique in two fascinating ways. First, this anthem is only one of two – Italy being the second one – that modulates during the song, thus ending in a different key than it started in. Second, the lyrics come from five of South Africa’s eleven official languages. How much more multi-cultural can you get?

Language Lyrics English Translation
Xhosa Nkosi sikelel” iAfrika
Maluphakanyisw” uphondo lwayo,
God bless Africa
Raise high its glory
Zulu Yizwa imithandazo yethu,
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo.
Hear our prayers
God bless us, your children
Sesotho Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso,
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho,
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso,
Setjhaba sa, South Afrika — South Afrika.
God, we ask You to protect our nation
Intervene and end all conflicts
Protect us, protect our nation,
Nation of South Africa — South Africa.
Afrikaans Uit die blou van onse hemel,
Uit die diepte van ons see,
Oor ons ewige gebergtes,
Waar die kranse antwoord gee,
Ringing out from our blue heavens,
From our deep seas breaking round,
Over everlasting mountains,
Where the echoing crags resound,
English Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom
In South Africa our land.
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