The costs of hosting the World Cup in South Africa were said to be justified by the economic growth that the event was supposed to generate. Expenses are expected to surpass original estimates by 757 percent. The expected growth in infrastructure and small local businesses has not come close to offsetting the funds that have been diverted from long-term priorities such as healthcare and education. FIFA and international corporate sponsors such as McDonald’s and Coca Cola are the biggest beneficiaries of the event with much of the local South African population unable to even attend the matches.
By Liepollo Lebohang PhekoAlterNet June 22, 2010
When South Africa was announced as the host for FIFA’s premier event, justifications of the cost were made on the basis that it would grow the local economy, provide opportunities for small and local business, act as a buffer against the economic meltdown, that it would contribute to the urban regeneration programs of the major cities particularly Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town and bring smaller cities closer to the center of economic and social activity. It was vaunted in fact as a great expression of the so called Rainbow Nation to bridge social, economic and political interests.
Here is the reality: The trade unions have been instructed not to strike for the duration of the World Cup even though some of the concerns are from exploited construction workers who helped build the stadiums; the matches are not accessible to most local people due to relative remoteness and prohibitive cost; an unofficial ‘blind eye’ has been turned to human trafficking and the victimization of sex workers leading up to World Cup; and while welcoming the world with open arms, South Africa’s sometimes shameful behavior towards other Africans is rearing its head with reports of renewed hostility towards Mozambicans, Senegalese, Zimbabwean and Somali refugees, professionals and business people. Frankly the government was asking a lot from a small leather soccer ball to resolve the country’s complex social dilemmas.
Soccer is historically the sport of the black working class majority and it is this majority who have greatest need of any benefits derived from this event. Unemployment stands at over 40% and youth unemployment stands at nearly 70%.
The almost R800 billion (US$107 billion) set aside for infrastructure development in roads, airports, highways and stadiums, is many times the amount spent on the World Cups by Korea and Japan (2002) or Germany (2006). Despite a comparatively positive economic environment, return on investment for those countries has been negligible. Today’s climate is much less favorable for South Africa. The total cost of South Africa’s hosting the World Cup still remains to be seen.
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