AS Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM) prepares to host the 2018 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, the city is distributing 50 Qhubeka bicycles, matched by a further 50 from Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA).
The bicycles were distributed at a ceremony hosted by the NMBM Executive Mayor, Athol Trollip, at the Vuyisile Mini Square in front of the Port Elizabeth City Hall on May 23.
The bicycles funded by NMBM are for 50 new city ambassadors who will act as â€œpeace officersâ€? and play a pivotal role in the safety and security apparatus of the municipality for the Ironman event on September 1 and 2.
Mayor Trollip emphasised that the patrols will not only be to the benefit of athletes and residents at the beachfront, but will also assist in safeguarding the elderly and residents in areas from where the city ambassadors operate.
â€œThe project should go way beyond the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in September to ensure continuous programmes and intensified participation in cycling,â€? he added.
The additional 50 bicycles from Volkswagen SA will be distributed to 30 beach officers and 20 tourism ambassadors.
The aim of this public private partnership is to empower the community to support and protect tourists, visitors and cyclists through bicycle patrols, and in the process to create jobs and alleviate poverty.
The community impact is a total of 100 new jobs that pay a monthly wage.
Bicycle recipients have been selected based on specific criteria that include being unemployed and aged between 18 and 35 years.
â€œSouth Africa has high levels of youth unemployment, so, weâ€™re excited that this programme will see 100 young people trained and kitted out as city ambassadors, tourism ambassadors and beach officers,â€? said Tsatsi Phaweni, Qhubeka executive director.
â€œFurthermore, their new bicycles will belong to them and can be used as a mode of transport.â€?
Phaweni explained that some beneficiaries were trained as bicycle mechanics to ensure the bicycles will be well maintained in the long term and to create an additional opportunity for a micro enterprise.
â€œVisible bicycle patrols along the Ironman route, and visibility along beaches will assist visitors and tourists with information.
â€œTheir hospitality will help residents, visitors, tourists, cyclists and runners to feel safer,â€? she said.
â€œWe also hope this programme will stimulate interest in cycling among local communities and promote it as a mode of transport across NMBM.
â€œOur long-term hope is to create a legacy programme that can be incorporated into existing neighbourhood watches, thus creating a sense of security in communities and the general public.â€?
Trollip enthused about the cityâ€™s readiness to host the first-ever IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship to be hosted on the African continent.
â€œAs the host city for the 2018 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, we have extensive responsibilities involving planning and preparation in a wide variety of fields.
â€œThese include the upgrade of road infrastructure, communication and marketing (including ICT and community outreach), safety and security, water safety, waste management, public transport, accommodation, tourism and delivery of a sustainable legacy for the community.
â€œWe acknowledge that we are faced with an increased challenge with the safety and security of athletes, particularly on cycling routes.
â€œOur safety and security directorate, incorporating the metro police, traffic law enforcement and security services, initiated several proactive safety measures in collaboration with the South African Police Service (SAPS), sporting clubs representing cyclists, IRONMAN South Africa and the communities along the cycling route,â€? Trollip added.
Triathletes from 90 countries already qualified to participate in Port Elizabeth in September with more qualifying slots still up for grabs during regional IRONMAN events around the world.
â€œIt is amazing to see the city come together in making every effort to secure the safety of our athletes,â€? said Paul Wolff, IRONMAN South Africa director of operations.
â€œSafety is a top priority for us as we welcome many international athletes to our country and specifically to Nelson Mandela Bay. It is encouraging to see everybody coming together and taking ownership of the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. We are supportive of the Qhubeka initiative and are confident it will make a difference.â€?
One of the biggest employers in Nelson Mandela Bay, VWSA, echoed similar sentiments. In an age where community involvement and partnerships with societal groups are increasingly being recognised as indispensable, VW SAâ€™s partnership with Qhubeka has extended beyond schools to look at other opportunities to make a positive and tangible difference in the communities in which we operate,â€? said Meredith Kelly, marketing manager for passenger vehicles for VWSA.
â€œThrough this donation we hope to not only mobilise South African communities but help ensure a better future for all who live in the country,â€? she concluded.