Sunday, July 11, 2010

World Cup Effects

Today is the final.  I happen to support Spain although I will be watching the game surrounded by the Dutch or their descendants in South Africa's Free State just across the border.  Everything where I live is decked out in orange.  If Spain wins - and their ball control performance has been nothing short of astounding - I'll have to run for it.  But I won't be able to run far because, among other things, the approval process for reports on my project go through a Dutch run implementation unit.

Nevertheless, one of the results of this World Cup has been a better view of Africa, and particularly South Africa by the rest of the world.  Yes, crime is awful in South Africa although concentrated in its major cities.  But - no one was mugged. No one was murdered. The vast majority of visitors - and the most came from the United States - had a great time and their eyes were opened to a continent whose public image is not great, to put it mildly. 

The media openly wondered whether South Africa would be ready.  Would the new, state of the art stadiums be finished on time?  What about infrastructure and transport?  What about safety?  What about...whatever? Would Soweto descend with knives drawn on spectators and tourists?  Lions in the streets? Nothing happened - except a hugely successful display of welcome, efficiency and hard work. Very few people in the developed world, especially Europe or the US thought South Africa, a relatively young country, could pull this off.

But then, take a look at Greece. A history of 2,000 years. The construction of the main stadium for the Olympic games was late.  Infrastructure construction and transport were insufficient. They were lucky to pull it off.

It would be nice to think that the roads, stadiums, housing, buses and police services do not need this type of event to be built.  South Africa is a rich country.  Yes, Soweto is still there and should not be given the governments wealth.  South Africa is the economic elephant in the room south of the equator and should be building its infrastructure, erecting schools, eliminating the Soweto's and corruption.  All without the need for a World Cup. 

To be fair, the same can be said of England.  Infrastructure improvements and development in London only started because of the upcoming Olympics.  That should not be the case anywhere.  Governments have the money to do these things - now. 

An Olympics or World Cup should not be the catalyst for improving the lives of people. 

Some other good things happened during this one month celebration.  Germans loudly and enthusiastically supported a great national team composed of largely non-Germans, including players from Africa and Turkey. The US discovered the game by watching and attending in person games played by its strong, it-ain't-over-till-it's-over team which impressed the commentators from Germany, England and South Africa.  FIFA, due to some truly outrageously bad calls (England's denied goal in particularly against Germany) is now discovering "technology" and "electronics" - previously rejected on some vague grounds.

The games were, however, Africa's moment.  Congratulations on a job very well done indeed.

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