18 January 2010

The Countdown to the 2010 FIFA World Cup (TM) in South Africa has Begun

Green Point Stadium as seen from Granger Bay in Cape Town

During my holiday in South Africa you couldn't miss the fact that in less than 6 months they will be hosting one of the greatest shows on earth.  The stadiums are finished, the draw has been done and everywhere you look there signs counting down to the start of the tournament.  In places the vibe is tangible and the country seems to be coming together to put on a showcase for the world.*

Since we were awarded the tournament there have been the nay-sayers who maintain that it will be an embarrassment and a blight that the country’s reputation will never recover from, but South Africa does have a very successful track record of hosting international events -
1995 Rugby World Cup (as captured in the movie Invictus), 1996 African Cup of Nations, 1999 All Africa Games, 2003 Cricket World Cup2007 Cricket Twenty20 World Cup, and most recently the 2009 India Premier League and 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, but nothing on this scale.  There have been hiccups along the way.  It is being reported that the Paraguay team have decided to move their home base as the training fields provided in their original choice are not up to standard and the prices of accommodation in the Western Cape are sky-rocketing (and existing tenants are finding that their leases are being cancelled or not renewed by landlords looking for huge windfalls) but all in all I believe that it will be a great event.

New Departures Hall at Cape Town International Airport
Even before the FIFA 2010 World CupTM we are reaping the benefits.  As I write this I am sitting in the revamped OR Tambo International Airport (in Johannesburg) and the departure hall in the Cape Town International Airport looks amazing.  There has been a massive investment in infrastructure around the country and road maintenance and upgrades in certain area’s have been accelerated to cope with the expected influx of visitors.  On picking up my rental car on my arrival in Cape Town, the person noted that the route he took yesterday was closed today.  There have also been massive road works on the 2 main arteries into Cape Town for a year now, but as these area’s are known for traffic bottlenecks, flooding and just generally being dangerous I am sure that the residents are grateful and will put up with the present inconvenience for freer traffic flow in the future.  This investment has also been very well timed.  It has helped to shield the South African economy somewhat from the full effect of the global financial crisis (aka GFC).  During this time the economy lost 600,000+ jobs, but many more were still employed in the construction of the stadiums and other infrastructure projects funded by the government.

Where will you be during the opening ceremony on 11 June 2010?  I will be watching the opening ceremony and feeling proud to be a South African.

* Even the South African's abroad are getting involved.  The "Hug a South African Campaign" was started by South African's in South Korea to help promote the tournament.

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