PhD Victory for Retired Sport Science Academic
The 68-year-old former head of the Sport Studies Department at the Durban University of Technology, Dr Ashok Maharajh, graduated with a PhD in Sport Science from UKZN.
Maharajh, known to all as ‘Bobby’, completed his undergraduate degrees at the former University of Durban-Westville before pursing his masters. During this time he received the KwaZulu-Natal Premier’s Sports Award, Athletics honours, the Shotokan Karate-do International South Africa Commendation Award as well as life membership of the Comrades Marathon Association.
Maharajh’s interest in Comrades was sparked by growing up in a home close to the Greyville Race Course which for many years was used for the marathon’s finish. He always believed that he would one day be involved in the organisation of this event and that’s exactly what happened!
He now looks back over almost 17 years of helping organise the world renowned event. ‘I held a number of different portfolios and thus have a practical and theoretical knowledge of the marathon and the organisation,’ said Maharajh.
His doctoral research investigated the economic and social impact of the 2010 FIFA World Cup on the Comrades Marathon.
Maharajh said major sporting events were crucial to large cities as it provided them with an opportunity to promote themselves in numerous ways.
‘Measuring the effect of an event on the development of a city is a complex and demanding task. This exercise spreads over a variety of different spheres such as the economy, society, tourism, public finance, organisation capacity, infrastructure, public confidence and international reputations.’
The study reported on a significant pool of benefits for both cities as Durban was one of nine hosting World Cup fixtures, the first of which was played 11 days after Comrades.
Maharajh stated that in addition to the quantifiable impacts related to the Comrades Marathon, the event engendered significant intangible benefits to the communities in terms of lifestyle improvements, boosting the tourism and leisure industry, motivating the development of active healthy lifestyles and promoting cultural diversity of the populations in terms of race, ethnicity and religion.
Relieved to have finally completed his PhD, Maharajh said: ‘The research was challenging and demanding but it grew on me and I eventually saw it as a labour of love.’
‘My supervisor, Professor van Heerden’s guidance and expertise were invaluable instilling great values and the work ethic that was necessary to complete this study’.
His wife, two daughters and close friends had also been a great inspiration for him.
Maharajh is now involved in community work and is the Chairman of the Red Hill / Avoca Civic Association. ‘I am also assisting a former student to compile his proposal for a masters degree.