The Confederations Cup soccer has come to South Africa, and with it has come a heightened hype about soccer.
In parallel, there has been more speculation about the FIFA World Cup, which will be held in South Africa in 2010.
Over a year ago, I wrote in this column that I had no doubt that South Africa would organise a fantastic World Cup event. In fact, I believe that it will be one of the best soccer World Cup events ever held.
South Africans are really good at organising events of all types. As a member of the charity club, Round Table, I witnessed South Africa orga- nise two world congresses of Round Table, and the subsequent opinion was that our world events were better than any other.
In fact, the Cape Town world congress of Round Table occurred the year after the world congress had been held in Anaheim, near Disneyland, in the US, and the general opinion was that we outshone the Anaheim gathering by far.
A recent indicator of note is the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament that was held in South Africa. I was impressed. It had been determined, at the last moment, that India was currently too dangerous as a venue, owing to the recent terrorist activity there.
The IPL organisers then thought of taking the tournament to England, but calculations showed that as many as 70% of the games could be rained out by the notorious English weather. That would have been really bad for the gate take and for the spirit of the game.
So, at only three weeksâ€™ notice, that major cricket event came to South Africa. It all ran like clockwork, and tickets sold out in no time. The Indian organisers publically stated that they were really impressed with the skill of the South African organisers.
South Africa will organise a really good soccer World Cup â€“ I have no doubt about that. A word of warning, however: govern- ment agencies must not interfere. The normal commercial system of the country will function just fine. But if, at short notice, govern- ment agencies take decisions to make changes, they could throw a cat among the pigeons.
So leave the organisers alone and have faith. Our TV coverage of sports events is also excellent â€“ one of the best in the world. We also have international telecommunications links to broadcast internationally, and the broadcast engineers know what they are doing.
The magnitude of the event will certainly push the international broadcasting to the limits, but the broadcasting folks know that now and so are making plans. They are professionals, so leave them to it. To me, the largest unknown is how many international spectators will turn up. When a World Cup is in Germany, for example, people from France, Italy, Austria, and so on, can get on a train and head for Germany for one game.
People from the UK can use a train, too, or take a flight to Germany, which, to us, is just a one-hour domestic hop â€“ not a major international flight.
So the many soccer fans of Europe will have to decide whether or not to come to South Africa, which, for them, will be quite a major domestic decision.
We should be advertising to them now. I do not know if any such advertising is being done. What I have in mind are approaches like getting articles into European magazines describing South African conditions.
Many of those people do not know what accommodation we have; they do not even know that we have tarred roads, let alone major freeways. Such uncertainties will affect their decisions.
Hopefully, international broadcasts of the Confederations Cup will have shown many soccer fans that we have major stadiums. The broadcasts show occa- sional glimpses of the infras- tructure around a stadium, like roads, buses arriving and fans streaming in at the gates.
South Africa is going to have a great FIFA World Cup in 2010, I have never doubted that. The potential for marketing South Africa internationally is great, and the nation-building forces will be dramatic.
PUBLICATION: Engineering News
AUTHOR: Kelvin Kemm
DATED: 26th June 2009