Sugen Pillay (Director: Business Development at TEPG and SETE Conference Director), Logie Naidoo (Spokesperson for the eThekwini Municipality), Olympic gold and silver medallist Chad le Clos, Carol Weaving (Managing Director: TEPG), Michael Mabuyakhulu (KZN MEC for Economic Development & Tourism) and James Seymour (CEO of Durban KZN Conventions Bureau) at the SETE Gala Dinner. Photo: Supplied

South Africa’s Olympic athletes were celebrated in fine style at the glittering SETE 2012 Gala Dinner, which got this year’s Sports and Events Tourism Exchange (SETE) exhibition and conference underway in Durban last Wednesday.

The SETE Gala Dinner was chosen by SASCOC (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) to celebrate the inspirational performances of the South African Olympic Team at London 2012.

Lira pictured performing at the SETE Gala Dinner. Photo: SuppliedMultiple-SAMA winner Lira entertaining a star-studded crowd that included Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley, Banyana Banyana captain Amanda Dlamini, Miss SA Melinda Bam, as well as a host of other sports celebrities.

Billed as a night of glitz and glamour, the SETE Gala Dinner did not disappoint, giving Durban and KwaZulu-Natal sport fanatics a once in a lifetime opportunity to celebrate South Africa’s most successful Olympic campaign since readmission.

Hartley, who won a bronze medal in the woman’s 500m K1 canoe sprint, said “I absolutely loved the evening, the man on stilts with the paddle especially caught my eye! I’m just excited to be a part of this evening which shares in KZN’s joy and love of sport”.

The star-studded event took place at the ICC Durban, and was hosted by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism (KZN DEDT), EThekwini Municipality and Durban Tourism. An evening dedicated to promoting South African culture, local, national and international businesses, sports fanatics, sponsors and supporters all had the chance to rub shoulders and share in the athletes’ experiences in London.

One component of the evening that generated much interest was the auction of sports memorabilia which included a signed Mike Tyson Glove, Chad Le Clos swimming trunks, Rene Kalmer Bag, T-shirt and Olympic number, a signed Bridgitte Hartley T-shirt and a Kate Roberts shirt. The proceeds of this auction went towards Lunga Ntuli’s ‘Talent Is Never Enough’ (TINE) sport and life skills organization.

Kass Naidoo and Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley at the SETE Gala Dinner. Photo: SuppliedBorn out of a need to promote sport in rural areas, as well to empower women, Ntuli recently launched the Non-Profit Organisation TINE, guided by his National Diploma in Sport Management (Durban University of Technology) as well as her Certificate in Sport Psychology and Soccer Instructor qualification. By running coaching workshops for Grade R Educators, 98% of whom are women, TINE aims to teach educators and learners the basics of different sporting codes such as athletics, rugby, netball, cricket, and soccer.

TINE has a number of high profile members, including Zinhle Ndawonde (SA U20 Women’s Rugby), Makhosi Luthuli (Banyana Banyana), Marchelle Mouron (Former SPAR Protea’s manager) as well as many more.

According to Ntuli, “As a newly-registered NPO, any funding generously donated by the SETE 2012 Official Olympic Welcome Back Gala Dinner will be applied in the furtherance of developmental sporting events, aimed at assisting previously disadvantaged communities. At TINE, we believe that although talent is something that you are born with, it is not permanent and when partnered with proper training and guidance, one can achieve anything in life”.

Both the SETE conference and exhibition (12-14 September) were intended to promote the country as a popular sports and events destination, by facilitating relationships between South Africa’s tourism, sport and event industries.

The SETE exhibition featured an estimated 100 exhibitors as well as over 50 international hosted buyers (IHB’s), whilst the conference programme included presentations and panel discussions anchored by keynote speakers, all specialists within their respective fields.

A feature of the SETE conference that generated significant interest was the National Sports Tourism Steering committee’s presentation of its 17-year strategy. Shaping and advancing South Africa’s development as a sports tourism destination, this plan identifies the key international events that South Africa should bid for, as well as the domestic events that need governmental support, in order to grow the country’s sports tourism industry.

The Durban Gospel Choir performed at the SETE Gala Dinner. Photo: Supplied

The Sports and Events Tourism Exchange was hosted by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development and Tourism, partnered by CATHSSETA, SASCOC and Tourism KZN, and supported by Springbok Atlas, SAA and SABC.