SASCOC has signed a four-year sponsorship deal with Bidvest ©Getty Images

Bidvest has signed a new sponsorship deal with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) worth ZAR66 million (£2.75 million/$3.4 million/€3.1 million) over a four-year period.

The funding from the services, trading, and distribution company will be used to support the Operation Excellence (OpEx) programme which provides assistance to athletes who are seen as potential medal winners at future multi-sport events.

"I think the OpEx programme is excellent," said South Africa's double Olympic champion Caster Semenya, who has been a beneficiary of the initiative.

"It is very important in terms of development but not neglecting people who have already made it in terms of medals.

"Remember the programme is for all.

"It is not only development but for elite athletes as well must still be part of it because they still need assistance.

"As a programme, if you want things to work you should do it with everyone.

"For instance, you look into where you can assist them.

"We know the races that they do but they still need to be part of it because if you want a medal as an association or a federation you still need to invest in those guys."

OpEx primarily aims at cultivating Olympic and Paralympic success and consists of three different tiers that provide varying degrees of funding and support.

The programme places binding obligations on SASCOC, as well as responsibilities and commitments for the athletes who join.

Funding is allocated based on budgets submitted by South Africa's National Federations.

Athletes are eligible for the programme if they are ranked in the top 16 in the world for their sport.

Those who won medals or were finalists at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games or Tokyo 2020 and are committed to preparing for Paris 2024 or Los Angeles 2028 are also eligible.

SASCOC President Barry Hendricks has warned South Africa's sporting bodies that his organisation should not be treated like a "bank" after the new sponsorship.

He revealed that the National Federations of boxing and taekwondo had paid back the money the SASCOC had lent them but admitted that other sporting organisations in the country were also facing financial difficulties.