Weep no more, SA

2010-06-26 13:18

We have passed the halfway mark of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. The

first two weeks of this tournament have been, to borrow a football analogy, a

tale of two halves.

It all began with one of South Africa’s most triumphant moments:

hosting Africa’s first World Cup. South Africans of all ages, races and hues

packed into Soccer City, fan fests, public viewing areas, pubs, restaurants and

homes across the country to watch the opening ceremony and the opening match of

the 2010 Fifa World Cup South Africa.

The euphoria that engulfed our nation for those first few hours

spread like wildfire as hundreds of thousands of football fans across the world

embraced our vuvuzelas, our people and our tournament.

Millions watched as we pulled off what many said we could not in a

stadium they said we would never be able to build.

Then the excitement spread to the other nine venues in South

Africa.

It is true that in those first few days we faced challenges, but we

continued to prove our detractors wrong and, while it is too early to start

patting ourselves on the back, we can proudly say that the contingency plans we

put in place have stood us in good stead.

I am reminded of something the late Steve Tshwete was fond of

telling me. He would compare life to a car, saying that a car has five gears to

go forward and one to go in ­reverse.

In life, he would say, you sometimes go

backwards, but you don’t stay in that “gear”. Eventually, you have to change

gear and move ­forward.

It is advice I believe we applied at the 2010 Fifa World Cup local

organising committee in the first week of this tournament. It was also part of

the message I delivered to Bafana Bafana last week before their match against

France.

We continued to move forward and continued to work on hosting the

best tournament we possibly could as South Africans.

The euphoria the nation had felt was ­nearly wiped out on a cold

night at Loftus Versfeld, but in true South African spirit, the people of this

country rallied behind Bafana.

Although our national team is no longer in the competition, South

Africans can take pride in what has been achieved.

Match attendance reached one million by match 21, when Germany

played Serbia in Nelson Mandela Bay on June 18, and two million when Paraguay

played New Zealand at Peter Mokaba Stadium on June 24.

At the current average,

we will end up with the highest attendance figures since the event was held in

the US in 1994.

At the fan fests, we have seen more than two million people through

the gates, both here and internationally, with Durban leading the way with the

highest attendance of the official Fifa fan fests in South Africa and Berlin

leading international attendance.

We have a long way to go, but the numbers we have seen thus far

point to a successful tournament on African soil.

Television figures for the matches have broken records.

In South

Africa, the combined SABC and SuperSport in-home average audiences exceeded

10 million for the first two games in South Africa.

The global reach of the World Cup is backed by the fact that

46.6 million people watched TV Globo Brazil’s broadcast of the Brazil-Ivory

Coast match. Broadcasters in China and Japan have also generated audiences that

average in excess of 30 million.

In the five major European markets of France, Germany, Italy, Spain

and the ­United Kingdom, the highest confirmed ­audience of the tournament so

far was for the Germany-Australia match.

An average audience of 53.8 million

watched this game across these countries.

A report released by Deloitte this month has painted a bright

future for South Africa.

“The event has provided a boost to national

infrastructure improvements, increased employment during hard times for the

global economy and provided a unifying rallying point for a still-developing

nation,” it stated.

Thanks to the Fifa World Cup, infrastructure developments have been

speeded up.

Two of our major international airports have ­received upgrades and

we have built a third from scratch.

The Gautrain is up and running, and proving

to be a roaring success.

Bafana Bafana’s exit from the tournament was a bitter pill to

swallow, but South ­Africans have a habit of facing adversity and coming out on

the other side smiling.

They have come to realise that this World Cup is about

much more than just football.

It is about uniting a nation once again.

 It is about changing the

perception that Africa and Africans cannot succeed where our ­global peers have

succeeded.

In essence, it is about changing gear and moving forward in spite of

adversity.

» Jordaan is CEO of the 2010 Fifa World Cup local organising

committee



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