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30 Mar 2011

Frankie Fredericks, king of sport and integration

At the Agora on 21 March, the first day of spring and Namibia’s national day, Frankie Fredericks was unquestionably the star and the perfect illustration of the evening’s theme: sport and integration.

In the interview given by the IOC President and shown at the start of the evening, Jacques Rogge described the Olympic medallist, world champion and record-holder over 100 and 200 metres as an intelligent and charismatic man of principle, whose modesty and humanity were “refreshing”. To the President’s question: “What would you have done without sport?”, Frankie Fredericks replied with a smile: “I would have worked for a mining company, and perhaps later I would have become a shareholder.”

During the discussions, led by Jean-Phiilppe Rapp, the personable athlete described growing up in his native country, Namibia, under the Apartheid regime (the country became independent in 1990, when he was 23).

The Games of the XXV Olympiad in Barcelona, in 1992, were the turning point in his career. He won a silver medal, and the highlight for him was seeing whites and blacks applauding together. The following year in Stuttgart he became world champion, proudly listening to the Namibian national anthem played in the huge packed stadium. Just for the record, he received a Mercedes, which he gave to his mother. She is still driving it today…

Frankie Fredericks became an IOC member in 2004, and he has chaired the Athletes’ Commission since 2008. He explained that being elected by his peers was an amazing feeling, and that he was honoured to belong to the Olympic family.

He also has his own foundation, the Frank Fredericks Foundation (FFF), launched in 1999 by the then-prime minister, Hage Geingob. This is a way for Frankie to thank the Namibian people for their untiring support throughout his career. The not-for-profit Foundation awards grants to talented young athletes (50% sport-50% education).

The final word of this excellent evening, at which more than 300 people were present, went to Poul Hansen, the Head of the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP). In his view, Frankie Fredericks is a perfect example of integration through sport, despite his humble background and thanks to his remarkable intelligence and talent.

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