by Deana Molumbi
Just like birthdays and weddings, sporting events bring people together. They call for unlikely individuals to sit side-by-side with one common goal: to motivate their team’s players. They bring together members from countries all across the globe as fans, spectators, and competitors. Sporting events can create an atmosphere of patriotism that unites those usually separated by social settings.
In 2010, South Africa hosted the 13th annual FIFA Cup Competition. South Africa was the first African country to host the finals, beating both Egypt and Morocco. The events were held for 31 days (from June 11th to July 11th) with 10 total venues in 9 cities including: Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Nelspruit, Polokwane, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria, and Rustenburg. Five new stadiums were built, and five were upgraded for the finals. Public transit infrastructure as well as security was also improved during that time. The country anticipated that the money spent on construction and preparation for the finals would be offset by the money brought in by tourists. But unfortunately that was not the case; overall profit was actually a bit lower than the expenses. An event like this should have been a time to not only highlight the African continent, but focus on the strength and resilience of the South African culture.
The overall image of South Africa was boosted but there were a few issues that revealed that having such a big event was not profitable for an African country. During the month which the FIFA finals were held, local vendors could not sell food within 1.5 kilometers (0.93 miles) of the stadiums unless they had paid a 60,000 Rand ($7,888) registration fee to the FIFA organization, which the majority of local vendors could not afford. This minimized the international traveler’s exposure to experiencing South African food and overall open market atmosphere which the local vendors provide. Instead of local vendors, multinational corporations were utilized, therefore not benefiting the majority of the local economy and its people. The official song was Columbian born singer Shakira’s “Waka Waka,” a remake of the South African soldier song, “Zangalewa.”
Why not make it easier for local vendors to participate? Why not ask a local South African to compose the official song? If not a South African artist, why not someone or a group from another African country? It’s stated that the overall image of South Africa was improved but I wonder on what grounds that statement was made. I won’t forget to give props to the current improvements being made in the Nelson Mandela Bay area as a result of the FIFA finals. They have repaired the bridges as well as the overall look of the downtown area and have also been able to employ more workers. However I think more attention should be placed on developing the countries which host such events. Sure, these events involve many different nations, but as official hosts, these countries should have more opportunities to showcase their uniqueness and enhance their economies. I hope that when another African country gets an opportunity to host a major sports event such as FIFA, that they see more gain than loss unlike in South Africa’s case. I hope that they make it easier for the local vendors to sell their products, and that consideration is taken when choosing the official images and songs for the events.
Just birthday and weddings the hosts are the focus and should receive great benefit as well as proper appreciation in return for the time, money, and effort that goes into preparation for such events.