Anyone underestimating the scale of South Africa's achievement need only spend a few minutes wading through the acres of press coverage over the past six years predicting failure on an epic scale. There were predictions that the stadiums would not be ready on time, that visiting fans would be taking their lives into their hands and a wave of stories that Fifa would be forced to turn to a "plan B". Even a few months before the tournament the Daily Star warned of a "machete race war" on the streets of South Africa.
By the end of the group stages, the Fifa secretary general Jerome Valcke felt secure enough to joke that South Africa had been so successful that it would become "plan B" for all future tournaments. There were undoubtedly some teething problems and some of the more ambitious pre-tournament claims were so grandiose they could not possibly be met by what remains – despite all that is loaded on to it by Fifa, politicians and others – a football tournament. But there can be few who would now contradict the chief executive Danny Jordaan's assertion that, off the pitch at least, South Africa delivered a unique and memorable World Cup and that "the doubters are the believers today".
From Cape Town's stunningly located Green Point to the daring of Durban's Moses Mabhida arch and the scale of Soccer City, standing alone on the outskirts of Soweto, the 10 stadiums some claimed would not be ready on time were universally praised. The debate will go on about the procurement processes, the overspends and the legacy benefits but they provided a fitting stage.
What will happen now is less clear, with all passing to new operating companies. The prospects of remote stadiums in Rustenburg or Nelspruit being filled on a regular basis must be slim. Even in Cape Town and Durban, ensuring a vibrant, viable future largely depends on persuading the local rugby clubs to move from their long-standing, much-loved homes. Jordaan remains hopeful that they will do so, given the obvious commercial benefits.
In the face of extreme cynicism, police and the local organising committee were almost entirely vindicated in their insistence that this would be a World Cup free of serious crime or disorder. For all the concerns in a country where the statistics make for horrific reading, the suspicion they would succeed by flooding public areas with 41,000 dedicated police proved more prescient than those who foresaw a doomsday scenario. That alone, in terms of helping change the perceptions of potential return visitors, will be worth its weight in gold in terms of tourism and inward investment.
If anything, the clampdown went too far the other way, with the South African authorities going overboard in their desire to please Fifa. Specially convened World Cup courts were largely empty, attracting headlines only for the severity of the sentences imposed on a sometimes bizarre and pathetic parade of miscreants – including the two Dutch women accused of orchestrating a high-profile ambush marketing stunt and Pavlos Joseph, the England dressing-room "invader".
More serious were concerns that disputes between stewards and their employers over pay could escalate into violent clashes. With swift, if brutal, effectiveness the police took control of stewarding in six of the biggest stadiums. If their sense of direction was sometimes erratic, their sheer volume ensured there were no serious issues apart from petty thefts.
In the opening days, transport looked like the one issue that might trip up organisers in spectacular fashion. Gridlock around Johannesburg left Soccer City with thousands of empty seats for the opening ceremony. Long-held concerns about the difficulty of ferrying thousands of fans to remote locations such as Rustenburg were borne out as large queues formed. Although there were still legitimate grumbles to be heard as the tournament progressed, teething troubles were largely ironed out as the event went on.
In a large country with little cross-country public transport network, getting around was always going to compare unfavourably to Japan and South Korea's bullet trains or Germany's supremely efficient network. The most serious issues were before last week's semi-final between Germany and Spain, where hundreds of fans faced a tortuous journey to the match as the airport in Durban struggled to cope with the volume of flights coming in.
Fifa has admitted that lessons need to be learned for 2014. The global economic slump, combined with a pricing model which presupposed that an African World Cup could be as lucrative as a European one, left Fifa scrambling to avoid embarrassment. A rearguard action to belatedly make more cheaper tickets available to locals and overhaul the sales system just about did enough. But empty seats were evident throughout the group stages and even at some of the knockout matches. It became a favoured pastime to note the point at which thousands of yellow jacketed volunteers would flood into the stands to fill empty spaces at some matches. Fifa blamed no-shows and problems with distribution of batches of group tickets.
Even more noticeable were the sparsely populated hospitality boxes. Fifa did not lose out because Match, the controversial outfit that has been involved at every World Cup since 1986 but this time signed a contract to resell hospitality for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, had already paid upfront for the resale rights. Match failed to make a profit on the South African tournament after setting prices too high and falling victim to slashed budgets.
By the end a total attendance of 3.18 million ensured that 92.9% of seats were filled, at an average of 49,670 per game. Fifa and organisers were still able to claim the third biggest total attendance in the wake of the worst global recession since the 1930s. If Fifa and Match have learned some hard lessons about the way that tickets are sold, how they are priced and just how far they can push corporate customers then so much the better.
And despite the recession, pre-sold TV rights and sponsorship made this the most profitable World Cup ever for Fifa, which banked $3.2bn before it had even kicked off. The commercial reasoning behind its drive to take the World Cup to new continents was underlined by a revamped sponsorship strategy that saw a string of names unfamiliar to western eyes from China, Brazil and elsewhere representing a new wave of brands prepared to pour money into Fifa's coffers.
No one who was in South Africa for the weekend of the opening game, or witnessed the hysteria that greeted the Bafana Bafana pre-tournament parade, can say organisers failed to rally the nation. The debate about the ubiquitous honk of the vuvuzela remains but it will always be synonymous with the first African World Cup. And despite Bafana Bafana going down with dignity in the group stages, the nation rallied behind Ghana instead.
Such is the chasm between rich and poor in South Africa that there were undoubtedly parts of the population, particularly outside big cities, who remained largely untouched by the World Cup. Yet many of those most enthusiastic about the tournament were never going to be able to afford a ticket.
Hearteningly, the country made the World Cup its own, loosening the straitjacket that Fifa imposes on its flagship event. From the hawkers selling flags at street corners to students wearing "Fick Fufa" T-shirts, there was a healthy disrespect for the owners of the World Cup "brand" even as they celebrated its arrival. While the international fan fests, held for the first time in iconic locations around the world and attended by more than 4 million, were deemed a success the picture was more mixed in South Africa. Some remained sparsely populated except for matches involving the home team as spectators blanched at having to pay over the top prices for "official" food and drink and instead gathered at alternative big screen sites or simply watched at home or in bars.
Inside stadiums, while the atmosphere was electric at some matches, at others it suffered from a combination of empty seats, an eclectic mix of ticket holders or the fact that many of the South Africans in the stadium were fairly new to the game. In its own way, that too can be chalked up as a success by organisers who were hoping to introduce the wealthy, mainly white middle classes to the sport.
It was hard to find many overseas visitors with negative words for the hosts, save for the odd grumble over prices or transport, with the warmth of the welcome and infectious enthusiasm almost universally praised. On the pitch, the quality of the football may have been variable and tended towards sterile at times – but that is the one thing the organisers cannot control.
Organisers have loaded much on to this World Cup in terms of the legacy it will leave, while critics have been equally vociferous in complaining about the priority placed on the tournament when there are so many other pressing priorities. But after all the rhetoric and bitter argument, the government said the economic boost to the country (38bn rand) would roughly equal the outlay. Around 130,000 jobs were created – but many of those were temporary construction jobs.
Given the extent to which spin-off legacy benefits have begun to dominate the rhetoric of the bidding process for so-called "mega-events", the forensic spotlight on South Africa is likely to remain for some time. Organisers have spoken at length about the "nation building" potential of the World Cup, and this was proved to be far more than empty rhetoric as South Africans came together in a national sense of near-hysteria. The fear must be that it will prove to have been temporary but its effect should not be dismissed.
Significant infrastructure improvements have demonstrably been delivered. But the most persuasive argument deployed by Jordaan and the government was that successfully delivering the World Cup would help change perceptions of the country and the continent. That they have surely done. They hope to align South Africa with other emerging economies such as China, Brazil and India and cementing a perception of South Africa as a country that can deliver on its promises can only help.
The World Cup: The World’s Biggest Event Essay
2633 Words11 Pages
Thirty-two teams, sixty-four games, eight groups of four, years of qualifying and one world champion. The World Cup is an international soccer tournament that takes place in the summer every four years. It is more than just a game to all who participate, and their fans as well “Husbands have mortgaged their homes to attend it [the World Cup] Careers are defined by it, and athletes have been murdered for making mistakes“, (Trecker 16). It is more than just the world’s biggest sporting event, it’s the biggest event period. (Trecker 6) Before the World Cup began, the only tournament that was played in international soccer was the Olympics. (“History of the World Cup) These Olympic tournaments intensified Fifa’s dream to…show more content…
By the time they had to leave, only four European teams made the journey to Uruguay: France, Belgium, Romania, and Yugoslavia (“History of the World Cup”). The first World Cup finally opened in the new Estadio Centenario on 18 July 1930. This started a new era in soccer, which brought remarkable success in a sporting sense as well as a financial sense. Uruguay continued their dominance left as the Olympics, as they won this first World Cup. Uruguay was invited to attend and host the next World Cup, but denied the offer because of Europe’s last showing at the World Cup. (“History of the World Cup”) They not only denied hosting the tournament, but playing in it as well. Fifa then chose Italy over Sweden to host this tournament. This was a surprise too, because Europe’s showing again. This tournament had only sixteen finalists with no groups. Favorites like Brazil and Argentina went home after playing only one game. (“History of the World Cup”) This was not an indication of what would be to come, because Europe dominated the tournament is years to come. Since this tournament there have only been seven different winners. Four years later, Rimet’s wish was fulfilled as France was selected to host the next tournament in 1938. Again, few things went as planned; Austria, Uruguay, and Argentina all withdrew and Italy was crowned champions again. The tournament should have taken place again four years later, bout could not