Dreams of 2010

2009-08-20 00:00

With the opening ceremony of the Fifa Soccer World Cup fewer than 300 days away, the publication of ‘Development and Dreams’ could not be better timed. The contributors — local and foreign academics, mainly working in the fields of economics, sociology and geography — bring a refreshing element of realism to the hype surrounding next year’s event. CHRISTOPHER MERRETT reviews the book.

Big money for Fifa

IT’S a mega event with mega profits: Fifa has already sewn up broadcasting and marketing rights worth R32 billion, making ticket sales almost irrelevant. In Germany in 2006, Fifa made a profit of over R17 billion. It will provide the content, for which South Africa has built the stage at a cost conservatively estimated at R30 billion. South Africa has had to make guarantees concerning immigration, exchange controls and power supply (2 000 megawatts) and introduce special legislation to satisfy Fifa. It even has the final naming rights to stadia and will enforce 500-metre exclusion zones during next winter’s competition. Much of the detail is shrouded in secrecy and obscured by rhetoric. Evidence in this book suggests that Fifa represents a new form of colonialism and undermines national sovereignty.

What 2010 won’t do for SA

WHAT, ask the writers, is the real cost-benefit to South Africa? None of them can find any evidence from past mega events to show that the World Cup will have any development impact on South Africa. The best forecast is 0,94% of gross domestic product and 50 000 jobs. This transient event is designed to profit Fifa, not South Africa. Politicians’ forecasts of consequent development are based on discredited “trickle-down’” economic theories: Glynn Davies of the Development Bank of South Africa amusingly describes this as alchemy. There is little in the World Cup for the poor of South Africa: Wits University’s André Czeglédy warns of “millenarian expectations” about an event geared to the profit of those under a “corporate umbrella” but not to employment. The optimism of street traders is likened to a cargo cult. A case study in this book of Bertrams, in Johannesburg next to Ellis Park stadium, shows that an opportunity for inner-city regeneration was swept under the carpet of Fifa’s tight deadlines.

What it might do for us

The best outcome will probably be the fast tracking of upgraded transport infrastructure at a cost of R9 billion. Airports, roads and commuter transport are being improved and the bus rapid transit system should curb the power of taxi drivers. Public viewing areas of all sizes and shapes set up during the tournament could improve social relationships and community spirit as long as security is good; and provide opportunities for small businesses and hawkers that the stadiums will not. Then there is the potential for long-term tourism, but only if lessons are learned about entrepreneurship, marketing and networking. The World Cup will deliver tourists – probably 475 000 of them – with little effort, but it will take hard work to get them to return, particularly to rural backwaters. Doreen Atkinson of University of the Free State suggests that the Karoo should be promoted like the Australian Outback.

A boost for African optimism?

THE World Cup fits Thabo Mbeki’s African Renaissance objectives more readily than Jacob Zuma’s developmental agenda. There is, however, genuine hope that it will reduce Afro-pessimism, make the world look at the continent with fresh eyes and represent a break with the past. The feel good and image factor was estimated to have benefited Germany in 2006 by R10 billion, but the value to Africa could be priceless.

White elephant stadia?

BY 2011, Cape Town and Durban will be burdened by enormously expensive new stadia they do not need, and Nelspruit by another that Mpumalanga’s corrupt administration is ill-suited to manage. Deadlines imposed on their construction have created shortages and inflationary pressure, and the enormous costs of sport have been carried by the taxpayer. Spare capacity will almost certainly result in pressure on rugby to use venues it would rather avoid. Upgrading of existing venues and the building of stadia in football heartlands such as Athlone made much more sense, but did not suit Fifa’s profit-driven agenda.

So, is it money well spent?

STADIA alone have cost R8,4 billion, nearly eight times the original budget, at a time when there is a national housing backlog of 2,5 million units. And this slice of the national budget could also have been spent on education and health. In KwaZulu-Natal, the roads budget was diverted to the needs of Durban as a host city. What the researchers of this book describe as the universal phenomenon of “event boosterism”, or deliberate over-estimation of the likely benefits, will surprise many South Africans. Even if the result appears to be positive this could be deceptive: after the 2002 World Cup in Japan, its national economy was said to be bloated on ”economic steroids”. And one of South Africa’s legacies could be legalised prostitution. Margot Rubin of Wits University describes the link between football and commercial sex “troubling” and deplores the “alarming lack of understanding” about gender, abuse and violence in this country.

• Development and dreams: the urban legacy of the 2010 Football World Cup is edited by Udesh Pillay, Richard Tomlinson and Orli Bass and published by HSRC Press.

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