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5 Reasons Why South Africa is Not Ready for World Cup 2010

fwclogo.gifThe State of Disorganisation

There must have been from the onset a public relations hill to climb in the Fifa decision to award the 2010 soccer world cup tournament to an African country. Fair or not, Africa’s image abroad does not suggest the kind of economic muscle and logistical wherewithal necessary to stage an event of such international significance. This, however, is a prejudice, and does not take into account the fact that South Africa has a general transport and communications infrastructure that is by world standards impressive, and by African standards miraculous. However a recent report in the UK Guardian, suggesting that Fifa had put in place a £400 million slush fund against the high likelihood of a collapse of the 2010 World Cup, attracted just enough vitriolic denial from Fifa to suggest that it might be true.

British sports journalist Matt Scott, in an article in his Digger Column, reported that German insurance giant Munich Re was holding off on a decision to provide coverage for the event citing fears of inadequate progress, crime and insecurity, and an uncertain political climate. ‘The situation is quite difficult and fluid.’ Said a spokesman for Munich Re. ‘The problem is they need 10 stadiums and some of these are rugby grounds that are run down and in very bad condition.’

This, it would seem, is just the beginning, so how prepared is South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup?

Reason 1: Crime

Law enforcement still stands as the principal area where South Africa is stumbling in its preparations for the 2010 World Cup. This was evidenced in a recent news report chronicling diminishing tourist numbers in Cape Town. Cited was a popular city destination, Signal Hill, from the top of which are to be seen unparalleled views of the city and Table Bay, which has recently been the subject of a security overhaul. Nowadays a visitor can expect 24 hour security, with foot patrols, closed circuit TV cameras, motion detectors, panic buttons and increased lighting. This in what is effectively a inner city green zone. ‘South Africa,’ lamented City Councillor Simon Grindrod, ‘is on the cusp of the biggest tourism draw card in its history, the 2010 World Cup, [and] it sends the wrong signal when we pack up and leave an attraction simply because of the threat of crime.’

Recent xenophobic attacks in the main cities has not helped the impression of a society at war with itself. If the mass influx of foreign visitors into South Africa is not to descend into a crime feeding frenzy then the South African authorities are going to have give some serious thought, if they have not already, to the matter of overall security.

Reason 2: Corruption

Corruption, of course, is a close friend of crime, and like an iceberg it is a phenomenon that usually only reveals its tip. It was reported last month that the IT manager of the organising committee, Zakes Mnisi, was suspended pending investigation into ‘financial impropriety’. Bearing in mind the amounts of money circulating around this event, Zakes must be the unfortunate fall guy for many such improprieties going on under the surface. While the forensic investigations that exposed Mnisi’s activities continued in the direction of tenders he awarded, and how he secured a position on the Organising Committee after similar suspensions in the private sector, many high profile members and private contractors must be rushing to cover their tracks. The upside of this is that forensic investigations are underway at all, although how close to the source they will be allowed to get is open to question.

Reason 3: Stadia

There seems now to be less concern regarding the completion of new and refurbished stadia than has recently been the case. Six of the ten stadia will be new, including Nelson Mandela Bay, Soccer City in Johannesburg, Cape Town’s Green Point, Mbombela in Mpumulanga, Peter Mokaba in Polokwane and Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadia, with organisers currently predicting that all six will be completed according to plan, which includes the refurbishment of existing facilities. What remains uncertain is the completion of peripheral facilities necessary to support the matches, including the all important transport network. The first major test for the World Cup Stadia will the Confederation Cup of Southern Africa, a regional tournament to be held in South Africa between June 14 and 27 2009, when planning officials will at least have the opportunity for a dry run before the hordes of World Cup visitors descend on the nation.

Reason 4: Transport

Inner city and inter-city transport has since the onset been the main bugbear in planning the format for the tournament. Among the new infrastructure developments proposed for the sake of the event is the much touted Gautrain, a high speed, high volume link between Johannesburg and Pretoria, and the Oliver Tambo International Airport which serves both cities. Currently, taking no account of unexpected problems, the schedule for the completion of the project is very tight. Construction is divided into two phases, the first scheduled for completion 45 months after the 28 September 2006 date of commencement, which would be June 2010, the very month that the start of the World Cup Tournament is proposed. The second phase due to take 54 months, and set to run concurrently, which means that quite clearly it will not be completed in time.

Associated with Gautrain is a high speed high volume bus service that also appears ridden with potential problems, with project delivery largely in the hands of local authorities with neither sufficient funds nor capacity, and nor with any particular interest in conceding this fact for fear of loosing contracts. The first phase is projected to run to 2010, which also leaves an extremely narrow margin of error. Associated freeway improvement projects are now competing with the need for social investment, and investment in the overstretched power utility Eskom which is manifestly buckling under the weight of vaulting economic development. With anguished muttering about environmental impact studies, and the unforgiving bedrock between Johannesburg and Pretoria, the deflection of criticism by the Johannesburg Development Association and the World Cup Organising Committees seems daily less valid.

Reason 5: Volume and Capacity

Current projections indicate that 289 000 overseas visitors, 48 000 African and some 115 000 local South Africans will flock to the various venues, watching on average four matches each. Even if the numbers prove to be lower than this, analysts predict a severe pressure cooker effect if any of the many tight deadlines begin to falter, as many indeed already have.

It seems ultimately that too many projects are chasing too little investment, with unexpected social and general infrastructure demands adding further complications. Future planning seems also to have been brought into question over the long term viability of a number of the state-of-the-art stadia that will stand as showcases to South African organisational prowess. These, it seems, will need subsidisation to be viable after the tournament, and will certainly erode many of the short term benefits expected to accrue from their construction. Unlike in the case of Japan and Korea, however, that jointly held the 2002 Cup, none are expected to be demolished after use, perhaps under the expectation that private capital may in some way rescue beleaguered and over-stretched municipalities.

With just over two years to go before kickoff, these are the stats. South Africa’s desire to lead Africa in matters of sport, economics, politics and human rights will be severely challenged in the months leading up to, and during the tournament itself, and although expectations are high that the traditionally high standards of organisation in South Africa will prevail, all remains to be seen.