Over a decade ago when South Africa first expressed their interest in hosting a World Cup, many critics mocked and laughed at the idea.
Even months before the 2010 opening match, the critics were convinced that some catastrophic event might force Fifa to change their minds and choose a plan B host nation. Still, the doubters felt that SA would never be ready, or that the tournament would be a disaster and embarrass the country.
Most sceptics pointed at the enormous cost of hosting the tournament, that the stadiums would turn into white elephants, that the World Cup would not benefit the poor who could not afford it or fears that Fifa was dominating the market.
Many, although most were non-football fans, were even afraid of the prospect of foreign invaders in their cities. Those paranoid locals decided to either escape the country at the time, or lock their doors from the noise of vuvuzelas and any range of fantasy horrors.
A similar sentiment was noticed amongst academics in Berlin, a week before the 2006 World Cup. They feared that their World Cup would resurrect the type of nationalistic movements that were last seen during the reign of Adolf Hitler. Even the media printed warning zones to avoid neo-Nazi’s. Predictably, nothing happened.
For 2010 the South African government spent 40bn rand ($5.3bn) on stadiums, transport infrastructure and upgrading airports.
Yes, the World Cup was costly, but as the tournament proved, the ability to make a nation of South Africans dream was priceless.
One of the most encouraging aspects of the World Cup was the way the locals warmed to the tournament, the hundreds of thousands of people celebrating around the cities, despite South Africa’s lacklustre results on the pitch.
Following the matches in fan parks, stadiums, elite areas and townships, it was visible that all South Africans were enchanted by the event in their own special ways.
In contrast to the World Cup in Germany, where it was easier for visiting fans to travel in trains or cars, supporters had to fly over vast oceans and continents to reach the southern most tip of Africa. More than 200,000 foreign fans visited the country.
The biggest advert was how the worldwide television broadcast showcased the country, boosting the South African tourism industry. Who can forget the opening ceremony call of ‘Ke nako’ (It’s time) followed by South Africa’s natural show reel?
With tourism declining in most other countries due to the worldwide recession, South Africa produced record visitors not only for 2010, but also in 2011, with a 3.3 per cent increase achieved thanks in part to the splendid marketing produced by a successfully hosted tournament.
That is on top of the 15.1% increase during the World Cup. There were also significant sales increases in the food and beverage industry (10,4% higher than June 2009), restaurants and coffee shops (up 14,4%), food sales (9%), bars (20,5%), the beer market (12,3%), retail (7,4%) and all other income sectors (28,5%).
When one considers visits from the country's African neighbours, South Africa attracted over 1.4 million visitors.
The overwhelmingly successful World Cup legacy increased the gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.93%, far in excess of the cost of hosting the tournament. With a boosted economy, South Africa thrived at a time when many nations were under heavy economic pressure.
So, the critics were proven wrong.
Since then South Africa also gained from the improved infrastructure of new rail networks, airports, transport interchanges and public spaces. The new stadiums with world-class technical, safety and utilisation aspects resulted in the attraction of world famous music bands and other artists.
Furthermore the 2010 Fifa World Cup Legacy Trust recently announced that they will be disbursing R40 million of the R450m received from Fifa as a legacy of the successfully hosted event. Amidst all the success, the country cannot take all the credit.
At the same time it is clear that South Africa received tremendous support and advice from 2006 hosts Germany, Fifa and from sports business forums such as Soccerex.
|The World Cup promoted unity in South Africa
Soccerex has been the global leader for the business of football in the last 17 years. Today they are helping with the development of football at grassroots level, and promoting the development of football in Africa through their expertise and the people they attract through their events on the continent.
After hosting successful forums from 2007 to 2009 in the run up to the World Cup, Soccerex is returning to South Africa for a two-day event at the International Convention Centre in Durban on 23-24 October.
For the next three years Soccerex will attract key African football figures and businesses from around the world for networking and business opportunities.
South Africa will also be improving the state of football in the country, as a direct result of the legacy left in the wake of the 2010 event. In recent years the South African FA were criticised for failing to use World Cup funds for significantly developing local football, but this seems set to change.
As reported by Goal.com this week, Safa will use the World Cup legacy funds for a ‘Seven Streams of Success’ project that will soon plan to train 10,000 coaches, identify better talent, build improved infrastructure, shore up regional administration, roll out technological support, introduce better sports science and produce a winning vision for Bafana’s performance on the field.
All that remains, is for the sportsmen to replicate this new trust with success on the field.
|SOCCEREX AFRICAN FORUM
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