World Cup 2010: Hopes set too high for the Rainbow Nation

In 2004, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) announced that South Africa would be the host for the 2010 World Cup. For the first time in history, the World Cup is going to be on the African Continent, making South Africa not only stand as its own country, one already faced with the difficulties of post-apartheid, but as a representative for all African countries. The South African government views the World Cup as a chance to sustain and promote its economic development goals. The hosting of the World Cup has become an opportunity for South Africa to reshape its society in an attempt for the resolution of a troubled history. By winning the bid to host the FIFA World Cup, South Africa has both the opportunity and the daunting responsibility to not only ensure a successful tournament, but also to capitalize on the potential political, social, and economic benefits the tournament could provide. However, the ability for South Africa to capture the opportunities for economic gains and social reform will be difficult due to the inadequate structures and programs of post apartheid [2] as well as the substantial costs of hosting the World Cup. [1]
From its beginnings in the 1930s, the World Cup has grown to be one of the most impressive sporting events in the world, and the 2010 World Cup is expected to be the planet’s biggest sporting event ever. Well over a billion people are expected to follow the month long tournament between the world’s top 32 soccer playing nations. Questions of a ‘plan B,’ or whether or not South Africa is ready to host this mega event are no longer prevalent. The only question that remains is, can the World Cup be a springboard for broader development both in the country and the rest of the continent?
A mega sports event such as the World Cup has economically been viewed as a means for rejuvenation. However, the true impact of such an event is greatly debated. Countries who have previously hosted the World Cup expected the tournament to provide greater economic returns than the considerable costs it required to host such an event. However, mega events have historically underestimated costs and environmental impacts, and overestimated the potential revenues and the effects on economic development. This is because the research usually done before the event takes place intends to benefit potential investors [5] and persuade the government that hosting such an event will provide a positive economic return.[6] Furthermore, the World Cup requires considerable investment in facilities, infrastructure, and organization expenditure, for which the host country is responsible. Yet, FIFA limits the financial benefits of the host country by creating a contract that regulates the profits of the tournament.
There are fewer examples of economic successes in hosting a mega event than there are costly plans in which the host country obtained a large debt. [2] Previous World Cup hosts such as Germany, the United States, South Korea, and Japan, all suggest that the economic boost the world cup provides have consistently grossly overestimated the economic impact on the host country. Furthermore, all four host countries reported minimal economic gain, and some reported economic loss. Therefore, it is important to understand that huge short term economic boosts have historically been incorrect in their forecasts in order to assess the expectations of South Africa and to predict the extent to which South Africa will realize the claims towards using the World Cup as a tool for economic development.
With the welcoming of the single biggest sporting event in the world, the World Cup only creates a larger disparity between the haves and the have-nots. The lavish spending for constructing and renovating world class stadiums has shown no visible or discernible benefit for the hundreds of thousands still waiting for stable homes, reliable electricity, education and preventative health care service. Mass tourism often brings overdevelopment and uneven development, environmental pollution, and invasion by culturally insensitive and economically disruptive foreigners, which have historically been displayed in the case of the World Cup. [4] Many of the world-class stadiums being refurbished or built are next to the slums with no reliable electricity, or even running water. Hiller argues, “When local people in the millions lack adequate housing, food and other subsistence needs, preparing for a ‘circus’ when people need ‘bread’ will always appear inappropriate” [3] Hiller goes on to conclude that adding human development to mega-event planning may raise expectations that would almost surely result in criticism for failure to achieve development goals after the final match is played. There is no doubt that South Africa will host a successful World Cup, but looking beyond the two months of soccer, South Africa may be setting itself up for great disappointment, and a large sum of debt, than a new Africa.

Naveed Nanjee
Class of 2011
College of Arts & Science

References:
[1] Baade, R. A., & Matheson, V. A. (n.d.). The Quest for the Cup: Assessing the Economic Impact of the World Cup. www.Holycross.Edu/departments/economics/vmatheso/research/worldcup.pdf.
[2] Cornelissen, S. & Swart, K. (2006). The 2010 football World Cup as a political construct: the challenge of making good on an African promise. In J. Horne & W. Manzenreiter (Eds.),
[3] Hiller, H. (2000) Mega-events, urban boosterism and growth strategies: an analysis of the objectives and legitimations of the Cape Town 2004 Olympic bid. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 24, 439—458.
[4] Honey, M. (1999). Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise? Island Press, Washington D.C.
[5] Horne, J. & Manzenreiter, W. (2006). An introduction to the sociology of sports mega events. In J. Horne & W. Manzenreiter (Eds.), Sports mega-events (pp. 1-24). Oxford: The Editorial Board of the Sociological Review.
[6] Szymanski, S. (2002). The economic impact of the World Cup. World Economics, 3(1), 169-177.

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