June 3, 2010


The ugly truth about the beautiful game: When South Africa was chosen to host the 2010 World Cup, it was hailed as a chance to 'give something back' to Africa. But, as Alex Duval Smith reports, the biggest event on Earth will do little for the planet's poorest people (Alex Duval Smith, 6/03/10, Independent)

Heralded as a historic turning point for an unlucky continent, Africa's first-ever World Cup – which kicks off in Johannesburg next Friday – increasingly looks like the playground for the rich that its critics decry. As final preparations are made in the host cities to welcome some of the world's most famous, and most well-paid, sportsmen, tangible benefits elsewhere in Africa from the world's biggest sporting event look as elusive as ever.

Under strict bylaws enforced at the insistence of football's governing body, informal traders – a crucial part of any African economy – have been banned around the 10 stadiums where matches will be played. Even the future of the most important legacy project of the tournament – public bus transport – is in the balance, amid government reticence to stand up to South Africa's powerful minibus-taxi industry. Sepp Blatter, the president of Fifa, which expects to earn more than £3bn from sponsorship and television rights, has insisted that the event is about "giving back to Africa what the continent has given world football" through its players. The organisation points to the 20 "centres for hope" – football academies – that it will build.

But radical Sowetan columnist Andile Mngxitama said all Fifa is giving Africa is a month-long feel-good episode which will do little, long-term, to change perceptions or economic realities.

In Soccernomics, Simon Kuper and his coauthor spell out why hosting sports teams and events isn't the bonanza that supporters claim, World Cup drains host city’s coffers, experts say (AP, Dec . 2, 2009)
Prepare to be disappointed, South Africans. One of the world's leading sports economists says you're not going to get rich hosting next year's World Cup.

There'll be no economic bonanza, according to a new book, and if experience matches the last World Cup in Germany, spending by visitors will be much less than the South African government shelled out preparing for the tournament.

"The next World Cup will not be an airplane dropping dollars on South Africa," authors Stefan Szymanski and Simon Kuper write in the book "Soccernomics." [...]

Using data analysis, history and psychology, the book debunks dozens of myths about what it takes to win, and who makes money in football - and in sports in general.

"The problem for South Africa is that they have to spend quite a lot to build stadiums," Szymanski said in a telephone interview from London. "Germany could afford this, and it had stadiums anyway. But South Africa is a nation that can ill afford to fritter away a few billion on white elephants."

Following the 2002 World Cup, for instance, South Korea's K-League had difficulties filling the 10 new stadiums built for the tournament at a cost of more than $2 billion.

World Cup can boost morale, image; not coffers
The book's argument is that hosting a World Cup or Olympics is an inefficient way to revitalize a city, or enrich a nation - especially one like South Africa, where a third of the population lives on under $2 a day. It can boost a nation's morale or image, but not much else.

"If you want to regenerate a poor neighborhood, regenerate it," Szymanski and Kuper write. "If you want an Olympic pool and a warm-up track, build them. You could build pools and tracks all across London, and it would still be cheaper than hosting the Olympics."

However, they also note that it does boost gross national Happiness, which is all the rage these days on the Left. There is presumably a fair bit of overlap between folks who are enamored of this new measure of wealth and those who tend to oppose sports franchises and their stadia.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 3, 2010 6:15 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus