An event that could easily bankrupt a state
The Rainbow Nation (South Africa) is ready for the second biggest sporting event on the planet: the Fifa’s World Cup Soccer (WCS). 52 Days left and counting down.
It all started on May 15th 2004, when not only South Africa, but basically the whole of Africa got awarded the WCS 2010. Cheers were heard from every corner of the world’s poorest continent, the same continent that would show the rest of the planet what it would be capable of doing and would prove to have grown up. As if a few millionaires kicking a soccer ball around could drag Africa out of its poverty, dictatorships and wars. Was it a political move to award the games to South Africa?
As with all big projects in the world, whether people want them or not, the costs of the WCS have gotten out of hand and not just a bit. Already in 2009 the teller got stuck on the equivalent of more than $ 4 billion, when the original calculations said the whole event would cost a bit less than half of this amount. Now inflation and recession get the blame.
Stupid of course. Any project has an inflation percentage build in and even without the recession the expected international visitor number of 1 million in 2002 was high, even 500 thousand appears to be too high in April 2010. In order for the stadiums not to look empty, today the sale of half a million tickets has started on the local South African market.
Could it be that the original costs were kept low on purpose as not to create too much opposition to the plans? Once the WCS was awarded it would be difficult to withdraw the nomination. For one month the eyes of the world will be focused on South Africa and who cares that it costs a bit.
I know a lot of people that care.
How about these homeless people that will be spoiling the fun for soccer fans.
How about the statistics (page 140) that 43,2% of South Africans are living on less than R 3.000($ 403,00) a year (2006)?
How about the 5,7 million people living with HIV?
What do they gain after the games? An improved highway system that they can’t use because they don’t own a vehicle. New stadiums that they won’t be able to visit due to entrance fees. Improved IT services that they, without a computer, don’t need. And not to forget enlarged airports that they have never seen, let alone used.
Of course there are the ones that don’t care what the costs will be. First of all there is FIFA itself, that slashes everybody that advertises the WCS but isn’t an official sponsor. Apparently trade marks rule.
Then there is Match Hospitality, a company that was given the rights by FIFA to buy and sell thousands of hotel rooms in South Africa, up the price, and is now dumping the rooms in the street since they are not able to sell them. A bit sore that one of the shareholders of Match is FIFA’s Sepp Blatter nephew . Ouch! It seems that the Africans have little to say in this global soccer game.
Although it is known that mega sporting events hardly bring in the so much needed cash and the FIFA is calculating in a loss, the WCS was awarded to South Africa. And although I am under the impression that Africa should be as much part of the sporting community as any other continent in the world, one can ask the question if the 4 billion American dollar could not have been spend in a much better way. A way that would benefit the poor and the desperate.
( 1 st update 20 April 2010): Some figures
- FIFA has increased its price money from $261 to $420 million (2006 compared to 2010). Page 48.
- The winning team (of most likely millionairs already) will receive $30 million.
- Every player will receive $ 1600 per day for the duration of the tournament. That is roughly four year salaries for the majority of the SA population per day!
- FIFA set up a ticketing fund, supported by their offfical partners, and gives away 120.000 tickets to the youth and 54.000 to the construction workers so they can all see 'a match'.
A construction worker that worked 300 days, will receive one free ticket of $ 20, which is a 'thank you' of $ 0,066 a day. Page 50.
Events of this magnitude should not be held in relatively poor countries that are a ten hours flight away. Let ‘the north’ host these games and carry the financial burden. As for the South Africans, they can watch the games on their televisions, just the same as they unfortunately have to do now anyway.
The video below gives a nice insight in the problems that South Africa and the WCS are dealing with. Interesting detail: some 40 thousand extra policemen will be on duty during the games. If they would stay employed after the games the desperately needed decrease in crime might eventually become a reality. I doubt whether this will happen if the foreign fans have headed home.
( 2nd update 27/05/2010)
The start of the tournament is nearing. Seeing the number of comments on this post I decided to add a poll so you can cast your votes! As soon as I know who became the winner I will inform you. You can share the poll with your friends as well.
( 3rd update 2 june 2010):
As the world cup is approaching and, without a doubt, the South Africans are eager to recieve the first soccer teams and fans, also criticism about the national benefits keeps trickling in. The FIFA is by more and more people being seen as a financial demon that dictates the standards. The South Africans thought these games were theirs. Now slowly everybody is starting to wake up and from the original 4% increase of GDP for 2010, only 0,4% remains at best.