World Cup Fever

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As more than 1bn people around the globe enjoy the spectacle of the FIFA World Cup in Germany, many South Africans are wondering how they will be able to replicate such an event in four years time.

While South Africans have been looking on with admiration at Germany's gleaming new stadiums, efficient transport systems and tight security, the true scale of the event that will come to South Africa in 2010 is now comprehendible.

There has been considerable controversy in the local press over what has been perceived as apathy from the government, ranging from criticism over transport capacity to a lack of safe open spaces for revellers.

While South Africa has plenty of experience in handling large events such as the Cricket World Cup, the Rugby World Cup and the World Summit, the FIFA World Cup will be the equivalent of combining all three of these events - and then some.

Added to that, Germany's economy is around 40 times larger than that of South Africa - in fact South Africa will be the third-smallest economy to ever host the event behind Uruguay and Chile. Comparisons cannot however be made with those two countries because they staged the event before advent of affordable long distance travel and consequently had far fewer visitors to accommodate. South Africa's visitor planning for 2010 foresees between 350,000 to 400,000 fans attending the month-long tournament.

South Africa is certainly putting its best foot forward with R3bn ($438.45m) being invested by the government over the next three fiscal years. The event is therefore already having a profound effect on the South African economy, with R5bn ($730.75m) currently earmarked in total for infrastructure upgrades. In addition, the government is spending possibly as much as R20bn ($2.92bn) on a high-speed rail line. Known as the Gautrain, the train was a centrepiece in South Africa's successful bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2010. If completed on time, the train will ferry spectators between Pretoria and Johannesburg. However, the Gautrain has recently experienced a considerable amount of criticism over delays and escalating costs. This in turn has led to more than a little scepticism as to whether it will be completed by 2010.

Danny Jordan, chief executive officer of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, believes that the importance of the Gautrain to the bid to stage the event has been exaggerated.

"From a World Cup perspective it will have little impact because what you need is transport from the fans accommodation to the stadiums. It is really the stadiums that will make an impact. It is the Munich Stadium in Germany that has captured the imagination of the whole world. We are going to build five new stadiums, five others will be upgraded," he said.

The availability of skills is proving to be a challenge once again with the construction industry currently experiencing a boom. Jordan also believes that it will be crucial for South Africa to start construction early to ensure maximum employment and keep mechanisation to a minimum.

The government's economic impact assessment has concluded that the tournament will create around 139,000 jobs. Although difficult to asses the percentage effect on GDP in 2010, with the economy already growing at around 5%, it has been estimated that the tournament will gross around R29.3bn ($4.28bn) for South Africa.

There is no doubt that South Africa will benefit from a buoyant economy in the run up to the World Cup. The South African Revenue Service (SARS) raised R40bn ($5.84bn) more tax revenue in 2005 than was planned for, with most of this being generated as a result of unexpected economic growth.

South Africa hopes that the event does not end up costing the taxpayers in the years beyond 2010 and that the country is not left with a number of white elephant stadiums across the country.

Jordan believes that they are getting the balance right. "The roads, airports, stadiums, hotels and the ICT infrastructure have to be used beyond the event so the World Cup has been properly integrated as part of a strategy to build sustainable growth in the economy," he said.

The renovation of some of South Africa's inner-city areas are also closely linked to the 2010 World Cup, with investors starting to move back to downtown Johannesburg after years of urban decay.

The World Cup will certainly be a moment for South Africa to savour and a chance to show the world how far this young democracy has progressed since the end of apartheid. It will also be a moment for South Africans of all races to unite behind their team.

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