The countdown to the biggest show on Earth is 65 days away, the 2010 Fifa World Cup will bring solidarity for all of the 53 African nations as 26 teams from outside the continent descend to South Africa to compete in the prestigious footballing tournament. This is the first time ever that the tournament has been held on African soccer, the first time that the entire world will focus its eyes on continent, in a year when many nations will also celebrate their 50th Anniversaries of Independence. For football fans, many hope that an African team will win the football tournament, but for many, they also hope to win in another form, to see benefits filtered down to them, for tangible development.
In the case of South Africa, many have a valid question, ‘what is in it for me?’ The government has seen the costs increase 10 fold, so that they have now spent over €3bn/R29bn/US$4bn in building stadiums, and supporting infrastructure for hosting the World Cup. Clearly, this is a tremendous investment in sporting infrastructure, when one considers that unemployment is 24%, this money could have been used to secure longer term job prospects, rather than the short term building jobs that have created specifically for stadia delivery. South Africa is only just emerging from its first recession in 17 years, and maybe more could have been used towards aiding a swifter recovery. Builders went on numerous strikes to ensure they were paid fair wages and given allowances, as they knew that once the stadiums were built, they would be unemployed.
Street vendors have also got valid questions to ask what the World Cup really does for them. Anyone who has attended a soccer match in South Africa will know that street vendors are an integral part of the local soccer culture, and local economy on match days. You have independent food stalls, both outside and inside the stadiums selling hot food, but also gear for supporting your team like the vuvuzela. However with the contracts that FIFA has signed with the government of South Africa, during the World Cup, there will be exclusion zones that will forbid street vendors to be close to the stadiums on match days, as those zones will be allocated to FIFA sponsors such as McDonalds. So not only have these vendors been moved away from the stadiums in the building process, they have now also been told that they will not have access to the most lucrative parts of the vicinity on match days that will see over 20 000 fans at each ground.
It has not only been the smaller vendors that have seen their opportunities thwarted, this also goes for the bigger corporations and singers. There is the case of the budget airline Kulula that drew the anger of FIFA with an advert saying ‘the unofficial national carrier of you-know-what‘, using images of stadiums, the national flag and vuvuzela’s. FIFA threatened legal action against Kulula, which has since gone on to release more adverts poking fun at the organization for being over protective of the tournament. FIFA has also been criticised for selling the rights to a pre-tournament concert to Control Room, that has selected headline acts that are predominantly not from the African continent, in fact, there are only three acts from South Africa, with the key draws being Alicia Keys, Black Eyed Peas, John Legend and Shakira. There are questions being asked in South Africa, if they have rolled out the big draws from the USA, why could they not have also included the likes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Johnny Clegg, Ringo and the like, artists that are of big pedigree and can showcase the very best of South African music.
As is always the case with legacy events like this, the true benefits will be measured in the medium-long term, but in the very short term, there seems to be many South Africans that will not see as many benefits as they would have hoped for in the World Cup.