So, with the World Cup less than a week away, I suppose it’s time I post the promised rant about the upcoming spectacle. Now, I know lots of people may think that my objection to the World Cup has to do with the fact that I’d rather be pecked to death by chickens than watch soccer (football? who knows), but there’s more to it than that.
Ultimately, I think it’s irresponsible for South Africa to be hosting the World Cup right now. Not because I lack patriotism and don’t think we’re capable of putting on a phenomenal show. But because I question the value of that show to the majority of South Africans. Yes, we are a nation of soccer-lovers (except me obviously). But surely the money that has been spent on this little sporting event could have been better spent elsewhere? Almost R40-billion has been spent on new stadiums and other related infrastructure. While these are nice-to-haves, there are a lot of necessities that more South Africans than you’d care to think about do without each day, and perhaps this money would have been more wisely spent on these things. Things like housing, health care, sanitation and education. Not quite as nice to look at as a fancy new stadium, but infinitely more valuable in the long run. While I’m sure the guy living in a cardboard shack relishes the opportunity to watch Bafana Bafana take on the world (where he’ll be watching I’m not sure since tickets are too pricey and inaccessible and Durban’s fan park is not even complete yet), I’m also pretty sure that given the choice between hosting the World Cup and getting access to running water, he’d choose the water. Maybe I’m wrong.
Yes, the building of all these stadiums and so on created jobs. That’s quite exciting. But once construction is complete, and once the World Cup is over, those jobs are over too. Wouldn’t it be better if government invested a little more time and energy in developing a long term strategy for reducing unemployment, rather than relying on a once off event to do so?
Perhaps it is a phenomenal opportunity for us. But the sad fact is that no host nation has ever profited economically from the World Cup. While other countries who have played home to the event may have been in a position to brush themselves off and carry on as before once the parasite has left the host, South Africans seem to be expecting to hit the jackpot over the next month. Which may explain the obscene increases in prices for things like travel and accommodation. What these people fail to realise is that for many foreigners, travelling to this particular World Cup is not economically viable. The flight is not a quick hop over the Channel into Europe, and costs infinitely more because of this. Even with the exchange rate, the prices that South African establishments are now demanding for accommodation are way more than what these tourists would have paid had they been holidaying in Europe. Add the recession which still holds much of the world in it’s grip to the picture, and things are not looking as rosy as most had anticipated. Of course government could not have predicted this particular turn of events when bidding for the World Cup, but surely it occurred to them that it may be trickier for people to travel here than say from England to Germany?
All that being said, I do recognise the opportunity for us to showcase our beautiful country and perhaps further tourist revenue in the future – assuming no one has been left with a bitter taste in their mouths after this rather obvious display of “let’s take the foreigners for every cent they have”. It’s not that I don’t want the event to be a success, after all, we’re committed now so we should make the most of it. And I do love the sense of pride that seems to be sweeping the nation, with everyone decorating their cars with flags and donning the Bafana jersey. It just seems to me that it’s a little elitist to be ignoring the lack of basic service delivery to so many South Africans, while pandering to those who can afford to enjoy a World Cup. Wouldn’t it have been better to host this event when we could say with pride that every South African lives a life worthy of showing off to the world? Just a thought.