In 2010, sport was on every South African's lips as the country hosted the FIFA football World Cup. And in keep with the sporting spirit, the IDC invested in growing the Cape Epic.
A kaleidoscope of colours displaying the flags of the best football-playing nations flooded South Africa in 2010, when the country hosted the largest single-sport event on the planet – the FIFA World Cup. Also with sport on its mind, that same year the Industrial Development Corporation invested funds in the Absa Cape Epic, the most televised mountain bike stage race in the world.
The mountain bike race, which has been classed as hors catégorie by the Union Cycliste Interacionale (UCI), is held annually in March/April as an eight-day, two-person team race across 722 kilometres of Western Cape winelands, from Diemersfontein to Lourensford farms.
This official UCI status makes it a key event on any professional racer's calendar. The Cape Epic also attracts aspiring amateur riders wanting to test themselves against the best. It was established in 2003 and its inaugural event in 2004 attracted more than 546 riders from 26 countries. In 2010, 1 200 riders participated.
In 2008, the race organisers approached the IDC for an 18-month revolving credit facility of R5-million, which was used to stage the 2008 and 2009 races. This facility was settled, and Cape Epic applied for further assistance from the IDC of another R5-million to host the 2010 and 2011 races.
The majority of the funding is used for the logistics of the races, especially since it moves through different towns. Included in the requirements are transport and setting up mobile showers and toilets, tents, marquees, bike racks, riders' luggage, water and catering, among others.
The IDC's tourism strategic business unit has identified the sports tourism sub-division as a priority sector, particularly endurance extreme sports such as the Cape Epic. The benefits are vast – the 2009 race, for example, contributed an estimated R2-million to each of the small host towns.
Effects are felt far and wide: Big Tree Foundation, the official charity of the Cape Epic, brings hope to children in the rural communities hosting the races. It provides these underprivileged youngsters with bicycles to get to and from school, and it supplies school desks, uniforms and books. To date, the organisation has supplied over 200 bicycles and more than 300 desks.
The JAG Foundation is another charity that runs in conjunction with the event. It encourages children to build a positive future for themselves and their communities by participating in various sport-related programmes.
Job creation is another benefit of the Cape Epic, during which workers are recruited from local communities. On offer are jobs in security and catering, and for labourers and cleaners. It creates 226 annualised jobs, as well as 13 permanent ones.