In wonderfully warm winter weather indicative of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, UCI Para-cycling Commission Member Louis Barbeau officially declared the 2017 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships open on Tuesday 29 August.
Event Director Alec Lenferna began the proceedings by introducing the dignitaries at the Opening Ceremony, which was held at the Time Trial venue at Midmar Dam in Howick.
Mr Barbeau said that this is the most important event of the year as we are at beginning of a Paralympic cycle. “It is with great pleasure that we are here this week for the competition after South Africa has successfully hosted the 2015 and 2016 UCI Para-cycling Road World Cups. South Africa is a leading para-cycling nation, not only in Africa but in the world.”
He acknowledged the successful career of retired multiple UCI World Champion Para-cyclist and Rio Paralympic Games gold medallist Ernst van Dyk, who will be present during the week to watch the races; and thanked Alec Lenferna and his team on the preparations; and thanked Cycling South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal Sport and Recreation and the City of Pietermaritzburg without whom such events would not be taking place.
“We hope that this event will draw some big crowds. I wish each and every one of you a great stay in Pietermaritzburg, great performances and without further ado, I declare the 2017 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships officially open.”
KwaZulu-Natal Sport and Recreation Head of Department, Rohini Naidoo, said: “We’ve been working with Cycling SA and KwaZulu-Natal Cycling for the last six years and we’ve been supporting these international events. We have a legacy to show for this and have a great development plan in KwaZulu-Natal, and key on our agenda is transformation.
“In hosting this event, we are working towards our agenda of complete inclusion and ensuring transformation for all groups of people notwithstanding race, gender or ability and opportunity to participate from local, to provincial, to national and to international events.
“Pietermaritzburg has become synonymous with hosting big events and thank you to the mayor for opening the city and enabling us to bring events of this nature to our city. On behalf of this government, we wish every one of you all the best in this event, and we’d like to say may the best cyclist win. But I’d like to be slightly subjective about this and say: ‘Team South Africa, YOU GO TEAM! Bring us those medals!”
Mayor of Msunduzi Municipality, Councillor T Njoli, said: “We are so grateful as Msunduzi Municipality to be hosting an event of this stature. We are known as the event city, and host many top-class events across all sorts of sporting disciplines. It is an incredible honour to be hosting 38 nations in our City, and we welcome each and every one of you.”
KwaZulu-Natal Cycling President, Greg Stedman, said: “You will have the privilege of racing through this beautiful region, which is a favourite cycling route for local cyclists and we hope that you enjoy it as much as we do. I wish all the competitors everything of the best. I trust that you and your coaches and supporters will enjoy the racing here in KwaZulu-Natal and that your personal goals become a reality.”
Young learners from the Lions River Primary School paraded to the front of stage, each holding a signboard of the 38 nations that will be competing during the course of the week, followed by the Edendale Zulu Dance Group providing the local and international teams with an enthralling performance of traditional Zulu dancing. The Mthethomusha High School Choir provided a traditional music performance and belted out the National Anthem in perfect harmony to close out the ceremony.
The 2017 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships takes place in Pietermaritzburg from 31 August to 3 September. For more information, go to: https://www.cyclingsa.com/2017-uci-para-road-world-champs/
For more information about Para-cycling, please visit http://www.uci.ch/para-cycling/.