No longer a question of “can”, it is now a question of “will”. South Africaâ€˜s capacity to host an outstanding World Cup next year has been proved by the success of the Confederations Cup, concluding tomorrow evening at Ellis Park.
The key ingredients are in place: an exuberant national passion for football, world class match venues, total government commitment and an ability to meet the demands of teams, officials, media and up to 450000 visiting supporters for accommodation, reliable transport and security.
Of course, there remains plenty of work to be done during the next 349 days (weekends and public holidays included). Immaculate transport systems must be developed to move people between hotels, main transport hubs and match venues â€“ local supporters may simply shrug if congestion means they only arrive at half-time, but international visitors will sue.
The ever-increasing demand for accommodation needs to be connected to the vast supply of South Africans ready and willing to rent out their private homes â€“ officially or unofficially, somebody is going to be amply rewarded for being innovative and getting this job done.
And an effective security blanket must be thrown over each and every location frequented by visitors, including the roads from Johannesburg to Rustenburg, Polokwane and Nelspruit and the 10 official Fan Fest sites.
This is the nature of the logistical challenge. With the right people in place to develop and implement the plans, this country will rise to the challenge and ensure the World Cup runs smoothly from the opening match to the final, and then be congratulated for hosting a â€œvery goodâ€ tournament.
However, something more will be required to stage a truly extraordinary event, an event that redefines this country and this continent in the eyes of the watching world, an event that inspires increased tourism, trade and investment, that creates sustainable jobs, and thus alleviates poverty and ensures that, 100 years from now, respected historians will write the history of Africa and reflect on a time before 2010 and a time after 2010.
What is this something?
It is emotional, spiritual. It is found in many places … It is found in many millions of beaming, open-hearted smiles, it is found in the warmth of greetings offered to a stranger, it is found in the heat of the sun traversing an open sky, it is found in the boundless beauty of the land, it is found in the beat of a drum, and it may even be found in the blast of a vuvuzela. It is the true spirit of Africa. In short, Africaâ€˜s World Cup must look, taste, sound and smell like nothing less than Africaâ€˜s World Cup.
Official tournament venues should be dressed not in acres of sterile, ice-blue twirls designed in Europe but in the vibrant colours and patterns of this continent.
The food and drink for sale at the stadiums and Fan Fest sites should not be simply the homogenised and globalised cool drinks and hot dogs available anywhere in the world. The Fifa commercial partners have paid their dues but, alongside their products, African people should be allowed and encouraged to sell local beer, pap â€˜n sous and other food, bringing the authentic aromas and flavours of Africa right into the heart of the event.
Everywhere, everywhere … at the airports, at the Gautrain stations (yes, theyâ€˜ll be open) and the bus stops, in the hotel foyers and the shopping malls, at the park- and-ride venues and, most important of all, at the concourses around the 10 stadiums … everywhere, everyone attending the event must be able to see, hear and enjoy a smiling army of African musicians, dancers and performers.
Many thousands of South Africans are bursting to get involved in this event and make it great, and it is the greatest challenge of the organisers to channel all this energy and enthusiasm into their plans, and effectively transform a mere football tournament into an unforgettable festival.
PUBLICATION: The Weekend Post Online
AUTHOR: Edward Griffiths
DATED: 1st July 2009