Tobin Prior, the then Marketing Director for Sun International, was approached by Brent Chalmers, Commissioner of the PGA, with this idea. How interesting, in fact, what a fun idea and right in line with Sun City’s extravaganza philosophy. Do it! Tobin’s reaction.
Brent put together a consortium of Swiss backers for the venture who committed their support for an initial five year period. The first two aspects, venue and finance, were in place.
The next step was to get the backing of the fanciers in close proximity to the venue.
As a meeting chaired by Silas Willis attended by Organizations affiliated with the Witwatersrand Combine (now the Gauteng Racing Pigeon Combine) held in conjunction with the opening of the new complex for the Pretoria Wedvlug Duiwe Federasie, the concept for the race was tabled.
Those attending this meeting in 1995, some expressing skepticism, nevertheless gave the race its blessing.
Louis de Jager, the then president of the South African Homing Union, believing that this race would enhance and promote pigeon racing, received approval for the SAHU to sanction the race.
The rest would now be simple, go to the local newsagent or the library and get the book “How to run a Million Dollar Pigeon Race” One small problem - the book was not in print as it had not been written! So who cares, get in experts doing sports promotion.
Alan Pascoe International, the London based sports promotion company, were appointed – thank goodness for Swiss Franks!
Thankfully they realized that as far as pigeon keeping was concerned, without a handbook, better leave the infrastructure to the pigeon fanciers.
A working group consisting of Silas Willis, Ronnie Croxford, Zandy Meyer and Promotion companies Anton and Chris Kruger visited Sun City to find a suitable site to house the pigeons.
Existing infrastructure at the then no longer used security facility at Sun City was altered and adapted into pigeon lofts, unique and suitable for the very hot climate of the area.
It quickly became apparent that the promotion company’s yardstick for normal sporting events did not apply to pigeon racing. They did not have any expertise on the nuts and bolts aspect of a pigeon race. A local sports promotion company, Statfocus, was appointed and Hennie Crowther now headed the project. Although he did not know from which side a pigeon ate from, at least he knew local conditions!
Clearly the local market needed to be the starting point and the collective knowledge of local pigeon fanciers would have to be used.
To this end ex South African’s John Galbraith in Belgium and Morris Adler in the USA were asked to assist. An acquaintance made at another one loft race, Paul Smith from the UK, was appointed to spearhead the overseas marketing.
The task of luring international fanciers to support a one loft race in darkest Africa and to part with their best pigeons at a US$1000 entry fee in the face of the many disasters and failures of other similar races was not an easy task.
Quickly came the realization that there was more to an event of this nature than meets the eye.