worldcup online – the real conversation

Next please, 2010 South Africa?

July 30th, 2006 by · No Comments · Features, Football

The local newspapers carry almost daily stories around the serious issues that the country has yet to address before a tournament of any kind is possible.

The most serious concern for visitors is crime. Johannesburg and Cape Town are rated as the two most dangerous cities outside a war zone. But that issue aside there are other areas that need just as urgent attention including transport infrastructure and construction of the stadia themselves. There is also a national power crisis that has seen Cape Town and other cities experiencing black-outs in the last two years.

And that’s not all. The South African Broadcasting Corporation [SABC], the national broadcaster, will have to provide the services and facilities required of a host broadcaster for the worlds largest media event. Currently all projects required to provide those services are only in the planning stage. SABC have just been awarded the exclusive rights for this tournament and the next in South American, although many have seen the announcement as an attempt by FIFA to up the stakes just to get things moving.

What everyone can agree on is that Stadium construction is the most worrying aspect. The successful bid included 13 stadia but was immediately reduced to between 8 and 10 due to concerns over the cost of construction of new venues and the refurbishment of the existing, ageing, originals. Due for completion in 2008, just 18 months away, the stadia will be required to host a ‘dry-run’ tournament in the shape of the Confederations Cup in 2009. No decision has yet been made on which stadia are to be used. Durban for example has just announced a R1.6b investment in a new 80,000 capacity multi-use stadium although no financing plan was made public. Indeed there was some disquiet over the very private bidding process.

Another key issue is accommodation for the huge influx of spectators, performers and the usual army of corporate hangers-on. Once there, of course, people need to get to and from games. Even in Johannesburg, the richest city in Africa, the 2 major stadiums, home to the Orlando Pirates and the Kaiser Chiefs, would shock many English Premiership supporters. Apart from the primitive facilities the two stadia are miles from the ‘safe’ tourist areas in a city where public transport is practically non-existent.

Accommodating and moving the expected numbers of visitors is one thing. Policing the events will put strain on an already stretched SA police force. The government has estimated that the event will require an extra 200,000 police officers and reservists to manage crowds and information needs. The police are already struggling with an increasing number of economic and political refugees that have made the Central Business District, and neighbouring Hillbrow areas of Johannesburg, complete no-go areas, even for the Police. Hillbrow is rumoured to have over 3.5m asylum seekers from all over Africa and those numbers are being ‘boosted’ by heavily armed ex-members of the Zimbabwe army as that country collapses and the Mugabe government fails to pay wages.

The reason for much of the doom-mongering is the process of legislation requiring special measures to be pushed through parliament to fast-track laws that will provide clarity on visas, work permits and the sale of alcohol at grounds, for example. Many motions have been blocked by political wrangling as members of parliament see opportunities to bargain their personal and party agendas. To make things worse next year is election year.

However, perhaps the biggest concern for most of the locals is the state of the national team. The Bafana Bafana, which I believe translates as ‘The Boys’ were dire in the, unsuccessful, qualification stages of the 2006 tournament and were equally as bad in the African Nations Cup. After the relatively poor showing of African teams in Germany, teams that easily out-qualified the ‘Boys’, there is a real fear of South Africa being remembered as the worst host team in the history of the tournament.

There’s a local joke going around that the only way to get the facilities in place in time would be to hand the whole thing over to the Chinese, who are all over Africa like a rash. The only hope for the team though might be to let the Nigerians play in disguise. Best not to say that in public though.


No Comments so far ↓

There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment