Like most people I was overjoyed when it was announced in 2004 that South Africa would host the World Cup, I thought this was an opportunity to prove that an African Country albeit the most developed African country could host and deliver an international event.
As I’ve got older and a bit wiser, I have started to question the point of it, yes I know tourism will get a boost and South Africa’s name will get on the map and all that good stuff, but really what exactly is the land of Mandela getting from this event.
Despite all the fanfare and euphoria surrounding the games, South Africa is still a very poor country, it cost the country close to $8.6billion to organise and host the World Cup, in a country where more than 40% of the population live on less than $2 a day I think that money could have been spent on something else.
Whilst South Africa can expect a modest bump of 0.5% to its GDP, FIFA which is a Swiss registered charity,on the other hand has made a nice profit of close to $1.7 billion or 0.7 % of the South Africa’s GDP from the event, up 40% from the last world cup in Germany, with final revenues expected to increase to $2.5billion.
Virtually all of its revenue was made in advance via the sale of television and marketing rights, while South Africa has to foot the enormous bill for infrastructure improvements.
South Africa has to rely on ticket sales and tourism for its revenues, these obviously represent the riskiest revenue streams, compared to marketing and television rights,for example the initial projections were for 750,000 people to attend the event, however this has now been scaled down to 370,000
To be fair to FIFA it does spend a lot of money on developing the international game, in its financial projections for the next four years, FIFA expects to spend close to $700 million developing football around the world.
Stefan Szymanski , an economist who has been advising the South African government, complained, “It’s completely wrong and deeply improper that FIFA is making money out of this”, especially as South Africa has been forced to protect FIFA’s earning from tax.
A south African journalist was more candid, “The World Cup is a colonial playground for the rich and for a few wannabes in the South African elite.
But has the world cup done anything for South Africa itself, western journalists mostly the BBC has regaled us with numerous clips of shanty towns and people living in them, they normally tell the story of how hard life has been and how they are hoping the world cup will change their fortunes.
Its notable, well I’m yet to see a journalist reporting from the wealthy white areas of South Africa, maybe the journalists never got round to checking those out because they were too moved by the stories of the poor.Alan Shearer ( a BBC pundit) asks people in a shanty town how life was during apartheid!!!! tells you all you need to know about reporting from the world cup.
I don’t pretend be an expert in South African politics or culture, but one thing most commentators will agree with me on is that Apartheid did work and South Africa today is a legacy to that flawed system that robbed a people of their nation. South Africa is still split according to racial lines, the whites live in their compounds, blacks in the shanty towns, and not even the World Cup can do anything to change that.
Call me a pessimist if you like, I for one think $8.6billion, could have been spent destroying the shacks and shanty towns that the poor black people live and have lived for decades and replacing them with the kind of accommodation that befits a developing country. All that has changed in South Africa seems to be the ruling elites enjoying the spoils.
Has any thing good come of the world cup? Yes of course. The experience for many Africans and European tourists alike would have been one of comradeship and brotherliness. For that we must congratulate the people of South Africa.
I end with a question….Was it worth it??
By Tony Burkson