Debate On The 2010 World Cup Event
By Dr BT Buthelezi MPL, Leader Of The Official Opposition

   

 

Kwazulu-Natal Legislature Pietermaritzburg: Thursday, 29 July 2010

 

 

Honourable Speaker

 

For South Africa, the 2010 World Cup was about much more than a simple game or international sporting superiority. Our World Cup was about the future of South Africa itself. The prestigious tournament was expected to offer South Africans a once in a lifetime chance to promote and present our country and the continent to the rest of the world in a positive light.

 

In the short term, the tournament offered us an opportunity to focus more vigorously on the provision and renewal of social and economic infrastructure, safety on our roads, crime prevention strategies, integrated public transport system, tourism, job creation and poverty alleviation. In the long run, the tournament was not an event, but an opportunity for long-term sustainable development.

 

The meaning and immediate benefits of the World Cup were therefore more symbolic than material. We did not successfully bid for the World Cup to turn a profit on the tournament. No host nation ever does.

 

Experience of many other countries which played host to international sporting events shows that the gigantic infrastructure investments for the 2002 World Cup did not boost Japan's slow economy, the huge investments that were done for the Olympic games in 2000 did not attract more visitors to Sydney and the $15-billion Athens Olympics four years later could not boost Greek economy.

 

Given our widespread and systemic poverty, one tangible achievement would have been if the World Cup had directly benefitted the poor. As the event approached, poor South Africans, however, became increasingly aware that they would not be the ones to benefit from hosting the World Cup.

 

Informal trade, a crucial part of the South African economy, was banned from around the ten soccer stadiums, reducing considerably the potential benefits of increased tourism for the local traders.

 

It has been argued that even the one infrastructure project which could have made a difference to South Africa's urban poor beyond the tournament - the public bus transport - might be in doubt beyond the tournament since the government is notoriously reluctant to stand up to the powerful taxi industry.

 

One area where the World Cup stood to benefit everyone, including the poor, was through public space. Like previous World Cup host Germany, South Africa's host cities created fan parks during the tournament where the public could view games on big screens.

 

Many of these public viewing areas reached the rural poor courtesy of the provincial government and municipalities. A new concept first tested during the 2006 World Cup, the public viewing areas are seen as a way of spreading the event beyond the edges of the stadia and opening the games up to those who cannot afford tickets for the matches.

 

It is safe to say today in the World Cup's aftermath that the event has the potential to leave a lasting legacy of improvements in one crucial area: our international reputation. Recovering from decades of the discriminatory apartheid regime, South Africa is a new democracy eager to move beyond its unfortunate past.

 

We were the first African nation to host the World Cup and our ability to pull off the event had been questioned consistently since our selection as host in 2004. With crippling poverty, widespread unemployment, drastically high rates of crime and very real aftershocks of its transition to a democratic state, South Africa badly needed a good public relations exercise.

 

The World Cup offered us just that - a chance to rebrand our country as a safe, friendly and value-for-money destination. Tourism is South Africa's biggest business success story since the advent of democracy. Our tourism industry grew at 8,3 percent in 2007 well beyond global growth rate of 6,1 percent.

 

Before the World Cup South Africa was globally recognised as one of the countries to visit in your lifetime. The World Cup brought hundreds of thousands of soccer loving people from all over the world to South Africa and I have no doubt that many of them saw South Africa as their future holiday destination.

 

The same hopefully does not only apply to South Africa, but also the neighbouring African countries. I have no doubt that hosting a near perfect 2010 World Cup will increase our tourist numbers by as much as 10 percent per year. This is equivalent to another 125,000 jobs, an extra R20-billion of GDP every year and around R6-billion more in tax revenue annually. In theory, it is enough to pay off the stadiums within three years and the contribution from the national fiscus to the tournament of R33 billion within six years.

 

In order to build on the promise of more tourism, we must continually renew our commitment to make sure that we provide visitors with quality services. I am confident in saying that our hospitality convinced most of visitors to the World Cup 2010 to come back again.

 

The quality service we were capable of providing during the tournament needs to be maintained beyond it through a continuous and consistent transfer of skills. Now that we have proved to ourselves that we can do it, we must continue to demonstrate our abilities to each other and to others.

 

Even more importantly, the World Cup has accelerated our growth towards one nation with one future. The tournament was a great opportunity for social cohesion and it has helped us galvanise unity across ethnicity and even nationality since soccer happens to be the sport that is popular throughout the African continent.

 

By hosting the World Cup, for generations to come we have secured something that is quite special for the future of our countries and the continent as a whole. We have portrayed Africa as the continent that it is, dynamic, growing, with people who are very much confident about the future.

 

In total, more than R40-billion has been spent on World Cup preparations by the national and provincial governments and the host cities. And while that investment is surely not the end-solution to the infrastructural problems facing South Africa, it is likely to be a good start.

 

I thank you.

 

Contact: Dr Bonginkosi Buthelezi, 082 516 0156.