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As the 2010 FIFA World Cup draws to a close, it is time to start asking ourselves what the real legacy of the event will be in South Africa.
This is what was discussed at a recent public dialogue seminar held by the Centre for Conflict Resolution in Cape Town. Taking part in the discussion was Dr Orli Bass, one of the editors of Development and Dreams: The urban legacy of the 2010 Football World Cup and Prof Peter Alegi, author of African Soccerscapes: How a Continent Changed the World’s Game.
“If there are any benefits from the 2010 World Cup, they will be intangible rather than tangible,” Bass predicted. Initially many South Africans expected to benefit personally on an economical level. “Informal traders thought the event would improve their situation,” Bass said.
Tangible economic impact
In Development and Dreams mention is made of a survey conducted in 2007 by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) on people’s perceptions of the World Cup. As many as 50% of respondents believed that economic growth and job creation would be the two main benefits of the event and a third of respondents thought they would personally benefit from job opportunities.
According to Bass, World Cups are extremely profitable for FIFA and the 2010 World Cup will be even more profitable than the previous tournament held in Germany, but the same benefits are not usually felt by host countries. Bass said that according to their research the contribution of the 2010 World Cup to economic development, improvement in tourism and reduction in unemployment and poverty has been overstated.
In an essay entitled “Anticipating 2011” in Development and Dreams, Richard Tomlinson is critical of the economic impacts of the World Cup. According to him investments have been directed away from productive uses such as the upgrading of the Cape Town harbour to construction of unnecessary stadiums. Tomlinson even thinks that the event can create greater inequality.
Orli Bass discusses the views expressed in Development and Dreams regarding the 2010 legacy. Kamilla Swart and Urmilla Bob agree with this statement in their essay “Venue selection and the 2010 World Cup: A case study of Cape Town”. The fact that FIFA did not approve of Cape Town building a stadium in Athlone, which would have stimulated development in this low-income area, but pushed the city into rebuilding the Green Point stadium, is to them an indication of how inequality was increased.
In the essay “Sport, mega-events and urban tourism” in Development and Dreams, Scarlett Cornelissen cautions that tourism projections for South Africa after the 2010 World Cup might have been overestimated. She points out that the sports tourism that is generated after a World Cup, often replaces especially business-related tourism. However, the greatest benefit to tourism might be the improvement of the country’s image internationally.
Peter Alegi, author of African Soccerscapes talks about the impact of soccer on nationhood. Despite their criticisms, the authors of Development and Dreams do think that the World Cup will leave South Africa with an intangible legacy of increased national cohesion, an improved image globally, as well as a reduction in Afro-pessimism when it becomes clear to the world that we can indeed successfully host an event of this magnitude. The editors write that it is important to “keep sight of the notion that the 2010 World Cup presents an opportunity to rethink the manner in which African culture, gender and identity are experienced and represented.”
Alegi said that while researching his book African Soccerscapes he realised that historically soccer had played a big role in establishing national pride in Africa. The game was brought to the continent by colonialists, but Africans soon made it their own. “They refused to play the way the colonialists had taught them and brought their own style to the game.”
When Algeria, for instance, wanted to gain their independence from France, their soccer team traveled the world with their new Algerian flag, encouraging Algerian pride. As African countries gained independence, soccer teams, playing in new national colours, helped to increase a sense of nationhood, although it might have been fragile.
According to Bass it is clear that this expected benefit is becoming a reality when one looks at South Africans proudly displaying their nation’s flag on their cars, organising community gatherings to watch the soccer and taking pride in what their country has achieved in hosting this event.
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